No hope: new premier, old story on Sarnia Jail

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley

Any hope that the new government of Premier Kathleen Wynne might reconsider the closure of the Sarnia Jail are being dashed.

When Wynne was elected to replace then-Premier Dalton McGuinty, officials from the Save the Sarnia Jail Committee hoped there might be an opportunity to reverse the decision to close the jail and send local inmates to a new super jail in Windsor. Recently MPP Bob Bailey called again on Wynne to personally review the decision.

But in an email from Seirge LeBlanc in the Office of the Minister of Corrections Services, Madeleine Meilleur, it is clear there will be no reconsideration. “The Sarnia is scheduled to close once the South West Detention is fully operational,” he wrote.

“The Sarnia Jail will remain open until the South West Detention Centre is fully operational in 2014. In the meantime, ministry officials will work with the local police and the OPP on a prisoner transportation plan that ensures safe and secure inmate transportation to and from court… It should be noted that following the decision to close the Sarnia Jail, arrangements were made to ensure that every impacted staff member will be offered employment at other facilities,” says LeBlanc in the email.

The email also reiterates the province is expecting to save $2 million by closing the jail, even with the cost of transporting prisoners to Windsor.

“Our modernized facilities will also provide more space for more programs, and be equipped with video conferencing technology giving inmates access to courts and counsel to potentially reduce the frequency of transfers,” LeBlanc adds in the email.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says the Save the Sarnia Jail Committee has a meeting scheduled for the beginning of April. He will suggest the committee ask the minister to visit the jail to dispel the idea that it is out-of-date and inefficient. “It will be a true test if there is a “new” government and attitude at Queen’s Park that will listen to communities or more of the same that has led to the alienation of this region from Queen’s Park,” says Bradley in an email. “The community-based, non-partisan committee has asked for an independent review of the ministry’s figures. Our numbers, which are conservative in the estimated costs to all taxpayers in closing the Sarnia Jail show there are no savings and considerable costs financially and to people.

“The ministry’s response does not deal with the human and service impact on the local police services, inmates and their families, First Nation’s justice and the logistics and reality of prisoner transportation.”

And if Meilleur doesn’t agree? “The committee can only ask and then the community can judge the response,” says Bradley. “The practical reality is that there will probably be another election before the jail closes and this issue will not go away.”

– Heather Wright