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Itís a new world out there.
Kim Goggins, The Mirror
May 3rd, 2006

World responds to jail change

Opponents of private prisons throughout the world are heralding the provincial Liberal government's decision to bring Central North Correctional Centre into the public fold.

"This is a very large victory, not only in Canada, but across the world," said Brian Dawe, executive director of Corrections USA, a non-profit coalition of corrections professionals from Canada and the U.S.

"This is the very first time, anywhere in the world, that any governmental agency has undertaken an actual apples-to-apples comparison of the two public and private prisons. No one has ever, anywhere else, designed two identical prisons for the sole purpose of determining whether or not the private industry should be involved in corrections or it should remain a public function."

The Liberal government announced its decision to transfer the operation from the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation to the public sector on April 27, after a five-year study compared the privately-run prison with its publicly-run twin in Lindsay, Central East Correctional Centre.

During that time, Dawe said a world spotlight has been on Penetanguishene. He noted this precedent-setting move will catch the attention of governments in the rest of Canada, the U.S., and beyond.

"It's a huge victory for public safety everywhere ... The importance of this cannot be underlined enough," he said. "In the States, we have federal legislation pending that would mandate that private prisons must disclose their operations to the same extent that the public does so that we can make an apples-to-apples comparison. We can't even get that legislation passed. (Private operators) don't want (this type of) comparison because this is what comes out."

MTC was chosen to operate CNCC in May 2001. The contract ends on Nov. 10, 2006.

According to MTC, the private company saved Ontario taxpayers $23 million during the first five years of operation and would realize an additional $11 million in savings if the contract would have been renewed for an additional five years.

Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Service Monte Kwinter confirmed that MTC was in compliance with its contract and had lower daily costs per inmate than the publicly-run CECC. But lower staff numbers impacted recidivism rates, health care and inmates' integration back into the community, he said.

"We took a look at the outcomes. We took a look at a whole range of issues - not insignificantly the cost factor - and if you take a look at the cost and the cost only, there's no question that MTCC were providing the facility at a cheaper per-diem rate," said Kwinter.

"But, if we were just worried about money then you can just sort of wrestle it down to the floor and say 'we want you to cut this, this and this, and get it run as cheaply as you can.' That was not our concern.

"Our concern was to make sure we were providing a facility that was adequately looking after the people that we have responsibility for, the inmates."

Dawe gives a lot of credit to Penetanguishene resident Sharon Dion, who has been fighting privatization of the jail since 1999, when the former Conservative government under Mike Harris announced CNCC could be privatized.

"She deserves an incredible amount of credit for her dogged perseverance on behalf of all of the people in, not only her neck of the woods, but across Canada and around the world," he said.

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