|HERES WHAT THE
The Ontario government wants to close its best facility
for treating violent and sexual offenders - the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton.
It says this will save $1.6 million annually.
· But will it? Have they included the cost of
not treating prisoners in their calculations? (We think that failing to treat these
inmates will cost $5 million per year, as they re-offend and go back to jail.)
· Does it make any sense to scrap the provinces best, most
modern inmate treatment centre and transfer its staff to various "superjails"
across the province?
is the OCI?
The Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton is
Ontarios best treatment centre for violent and sexual offenders. Every year 500 men
are admitted. They are all doing time in the provincial prison system, which means they
have been sentenced to terms of less than two years (offenders with longer terms go to
Thirty to 50 per cent of the men sent to OCI are guilty
of sexual crimes. Another 20 to 30 per cent were convicted of other violent crimes. (The
rest are in jail for crimes against property or for drug-related offences.) In short, the
men who come to OCI are troubled, often dangerous people. Yet theyll be released
from prison in the near future. The job of the psychologists and social workers at OCI is
to help them change their behaviour before theyre returned to society.
does the OCI work?
The Ontario Correctional Institute is a very
different kind of prison. It aims to have inmates take responsibility for their actions,
and for their lives. This involves more than just some extra counselling. The OCI has
pioneered a unique program structure and prison culture that focuses on rehabilitation.
Inmates live in 34-man community units, instead of
individual prison cells. Sexual offenders are mixed in with the rest of the population (in
traditional prisons, sexual offenders are segregated for their own safety). Under staff
supervision the inmates help govern their units and hold one another accountable for their
treatment progress. Formal treatment involves both group and individual therapy, with
programs that are specific to each prisoners offence.
the OCIs record?
The Ontario Correctional Institute is a
groundbreaking institution in the field of inmate treatment. It won an award in 1997 from
the American Correctional Association as an Exemplary Offender Program. Prison
officials from around the world have toured the facility and are trying to create similar
programs in their own countries.
More importantly, OCI inmates are less likely to return
to crime after they leave prison. The Institute is especially effective in breaking the
pattern of crime for sexual and violent offenders. The rate at which OCI inmates re-offend
after they leave prison (called the "recidivism" rate) is declining. In the
1970s, half the inmates re-offended, on average. That proportion is now down to less than
n What does it cost to run the
OCI it costs $1.6 million to treat 500 inmates per year. But the institution saves
taxpayers much more than that because it is effective in treating offenders, which leads
to lower recidivism rates. This is very cost effective because we save on future victim
costs, policing costs, courts costs and prison costs. We estimate these savings to be well
over $5 million per year. So the OCI more than saves its treatment costs, plus we get safer
communities and safer prisons.
is not enough
OCIs method is based on the philosophy that punishment alone isnt enough when
it comes to violent and sexual offenders. Traditional prisons often ingrain criminal
behaviour in their inmates, and they offer surprisingly little treatment. The OCI breaks
down the culture of mistrust between inmates, and between inmates and staff, and then
treats the deeper problems that have led the inmates to criminal behaviour. Its a
healing, rather than a punitive approach.
happening to the OCI?
current Ontario government wants to close the OCI, along with 23 other Ontario jails it
considers old and inefficient (the OCI is neither). It will replace them with three new
"superjails." It says this will save money, because the new jails will rely on
video surveillance, with fewer correctional officers. The OCIs treatment
professionals will be distributed across this new prison system. And there is some talk
that the OCI buildings in Brampton will be converted into a boot camp for young offenders.
wrong with superjails?
The new system being planned by the government will
mean less contact between inmates and correctional officers. The idea is to warehouse
prisoners at the least possible cost, without much regard for humanity or rehabilitation.
The OCIs professionals say they cant offer
the same programs within the superjails traditional prison environment. The distrust
between prisoners and staff is too high, and sexual offenders would never risk talking
about their behaviour in a traditional prison setting. To do so would be to risk violent
retribution from other prisoners. At the very least, the OCI correctional officers suggest
retaining the facility as an ultra-treatment centre that would complement the new
if the proposed superjails are cheaper to run than the existing system (and thats an
open question), you have to ask: What is the cost of failing to treat violent and
These inmates will all be released in fairly short
order. Theres a huge cost to taxpayers and citizens if a majority of these men
commit further crimes, injure more people, damage more property and eventually get
returned to prison.
help save the
Inmate says: "dont close the OCI"
My name is Michael Mawhinney and I am writing to you from the
Ontario Correctional Institute, where I am currently incarcerated.
I feel the need to express my concerns on its proposed
closure, because the OCI has helped change my life.
I see guys here filled with anger, hate and
resentment. Many have been abused during childhood. The move to a productive lifestyle
cant be made until we are taught differently.
The OCI is a place where we can learn to understand
our feelings and emotions, to be in touch with our true selves, that person inside who
wants to love and be loved. This is the only facility in Ontario where individuals can
come to make a change, in hopes of starting a new life with morals and principles.
Here we look at victim impact and how weve hurt
our victims. We learn to understand what they have gone through. For some inmates
its the first time theyve actually cared for someone other than themselves.
I believe very strongly that this place should be kept
open because with the help of the volunteers and staff here I can now believe in myself.
We want to show the Ontario government that their
plans make no sense. Replacing a treatment centre with superjails is silly. And failing to
provide the most effective treatment for the most dangerous offenders is folly.
Join the Friends of
the Ontario Correctional Institute, and help us keep this world-renowned facility intact.
By our reckoning, $1.6 million is a good investment if it
helps change the behaviour of several hundred dangerous offenders each year thereby
saving $5 million per year in future prison costs.
· Call the
Friends of OCI at 416-448-7459,
or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Send a fax to Ontario Solicitor-General Bob Runciman at:
416-326-5085, or send an email from: www.sgcs.gov.on.ca\eng.
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