Mixed reactions to new $1.2 billion correctional center in Thunder Bay

Monday’s announcement comes as the Ontario election is about to begin and the Conservatives are ramping up pre-election promises.

Initially, this project was promised by the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne.

The original prison opened in 1928 and in 2020 a report by the Ontario Ombudsman noted poor prison conditions and structure.

Following the death of an inmate in June 2020, several politicians, including NDP MP Sol Mamakwa and former Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, called for the facility to be closed.

Portrait of Sol Mamakwa.

Sol Mamakwa, MLA for Kiiwetinoong Constituency

Photo: CBC/Logan Turner

The representative of the prison employees is delighted with the news.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 737 President Bill Hayes also realizes the importance of this investment to the region.

With overcrowded correctional facilities, this new complex is desperately needed.

He is of the opinion that the cost may seem enormous, but the region, the province needs such a complex in the North Westhe explains.

Mr. Hayes points out that the new facilities would avoid several problems and not depend on other prisons.

We constantly have to move inmates around the province. If we do not stay up to date with the movements of the week, we find ourselves overwhelmed.

Funds should go somewhere else

Justin Piché, associate professor in the department of criminology at the University of Ottawa, thinks this money is badly invested.

It’s a bad decision, period. Criminological research shows very well that it is better to prevent than to cure. Then, every dollar we spend on upstream prevention for victimization saves us five to seven dollars in costs for the police, courts and confinement.

Justin Piche

The associate professor in the department of criminology at the University of Ottawa, Justin Piché, advocates more social assistance for prisoners.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Screenshot

Mr. Piché believes that that money should be put elsewhere and the solution is not to build new cages.

He argues that there should be more focus on funding social projects.

Here in Ontario, around one in four prisoners are homeless. A large proportion of these human beings are known to live with mental health issues, addictions, or both. »

A quote from Justin Piché, Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa

He prefers that the province invest in the provision of support services for prisoners, such as social housing, harm reduction services and drug treatment, but first we must deconfine correctional centers and prisons.

Without such a measure, no programs are offered.

According to Mr. Piché, in the context of Thunder Bay, there does not seem to be an answer to the treatment of Aboriginal people.

It disappoints me that we are investing so much money in a new prison when we know that it is essentially an extension of the injustices that will persist or that will allow mass incarceration.

Former criminal lawyer, member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation and special adviser for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Alain Bartleman, agrees. He asserts that it is a necessary but insufficient investment.

Alain Bartleman

Alain Bartleman is also Treasurer of the Indigenous Bar Association.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Screen capture

According to Mr. Bartleman, it is necessary reduce the conditions that lead people to end up in prison.

This means reducing dependency and above all developing a more effective way of dealing with the police, he adds.

In addition to funding for the construction of the new Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, the province will provide $96 million for expansion projects at the existing correctional center and the Kenora Jail.

Another $5 million will go to the Northern Posting Incentive Pilot Program, aimed at attracting and retaining staff for corrections.


Leave a Comment