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Penetanguishene superjail getting more guards, communications upgrades

Recent COVID-19 outbreak affected nearly 150 staff and inmates
The Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene. MidlandToday file photo.

The Central North Correctional Centre is getting some extra help.

With a major COVID-19 outbreak that affected close to 150 staff and inmates declared over in recent days by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the Penetanguishene facility’s staff contingent is increasing.

“We are pleased to share that seven new correctional officers have now begun duties at the Central North Correctional Centre,” Office of the Solicitor General spokeswoman Hannah Jensen told MidlandToday.

“These hires are part of the Ontario government’s investment of over $500 million over five years to transform correctional services and improve safety.”

CNCC-369 local president president Richard Dionne said that while the new correctional officers will help, the institution remains short staffed.

“There has been a local recruitment drive, which will hopefully increase our overall staffing, with another event being held in the near future,” said Dionne, who's also a correctional officer at the jail.

The seven Penetanguishene recruits are part of a 107-strong contingent assigned to institutions across the province.

Neither Dionne nor Jensen said how many staff currently work at the jail.

“For security reasons, the ministry does not disclose the number of correctional officers at an individual facility,” Jensen said. “However, I can tell you that the recent correctional officer graduates will be assigned to 18 different institutions across Ontario near their home regions.”

The newcomers completed an eight-week correctional officer training program took place virtually and in-person. Recruits received extensive training with enhanced instruction in communication and de-escalation skills. The curriculum also included a focus on anti-Black racism, Indigenous cultural training and inmate management techniques.

Besides the seven new staffers, the Penetanguishene institution will also receive an upgrade to its “outdated” radio infrastructure under the province's plan to modernize communications infrastructure at 25 adult correctional institutions and five youth facilities.

“It will ensure that corrections and youth justice staff have the communications infrastructure, network and equipment they need to do their jobs and protect staff and inmate safety,” Jensen said.

Jensen also noted that Jones has said that reliable radio infrastructure is essential for keeping employees and those in custody safe.

Added Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in a prepared statement: “This leading-edge technology will ensure that corrections and youth justice staff have access to a secure and reliable system that will meet current and future operational needs and ensure staff and inmates are protected.”

Last week, the province announced it would create Institutional Security Teams at the Penetanguishene jail along with the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.

The teams, which are designed to protect the safety of correctional staff, inmates and the public, consist of specially trained correctional officers who gather information within correctional facilities to help prevent human trafficking, drug trafficking, and detect contraband items. This information is shared with justice partners, including police services, to assist in the investigation of criminal activities within Ontario's adult correctional institutions.

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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