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Province ends unnecessary inmate transfers

Only transfers happening now are for release or court appearances, says local union president
The Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene. Mehreen Shahid/MidlandToday

Correctional officers are relieved the province has ended unncessary inmate transfers between jails.

Richard Dionne, president of the union of correctional officers at Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC), said tranfers have now been limited to specific actions such as release and court appearances.

"It's less worrisome now, because this is required movement," he said. "It's not unnecessary moves that we were having up until last week."

Last week, MidlandToday reported on concerns shared by Dionne around unnecessary inmate transfers around the province. 

Shortly aftetr that, he said, "they sort of changed their mind and involved the union in transfer discussion, which isn't typical."

The Solicitor General's office has also stopped all in-person court appearances, Dionne said. 

"And that's a big move for the government to take," he said. "For court purposes locally, all of the appearance are being done virtually. For someone who maybe has an appearance in Thunder Bay, they're transferring the inmate to Thunder Bay jail."

Brent Ross speaks for the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

"To limit in-person proceedings Ontario courts and tribunals are making use of audio and video conferencing to hear priority matters remotely, where possible," he said in a prepared statement. "And judges and justices of the peace continue to prioritize critical matters such as criminal and child protection proceedings.

"The Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of the Attorney General are working together with the judiciary and criminal-justice-sector partners to substantially reduce in-person court appearances by inmates. As of March 23, remote appearances have increased from an average of 55 per cent the previous week to 67 per cent of cases. We anticipate this upward trend will continue."

At this time, Dionne said, all of the CNCC inmates or correctional officers remain symptom-free.

"Our new admits are being screened as they're coming in by our nursing staff, so that negates any of that risk," he said. "Now that we're staying in-house it's a lot easier that way."

Dionne, who is on his 12th day of self-quarantine after returning from vacation abroad, said even though work is keeping him busy, it's becoming a bit difficult staying confined to his house.

"This has been difficult on a personal level to sit at home for two weeks," said Dionne. "I still have all my belongings and cook my own food, but it puts things into perspective for sure."

The institution, he said, is fully stocked in personal protective equipment, such as gloves, face shields, and gowns, that staff may need to use if a case is identified at the jail. 

"We're monitoring the situation provincially," Dionne said. "There have been more cases identified at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detection Centre. It's not cause for concern for us at this point."