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What’s
the cost
of failing
to treat
 

HERE’S WHAT THE GOVERNMENT
IS PLANNING

  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 province’s best, most modern inmate treatment centre and transfer its staff to various "superjails" across the province?

 

Ontario’s
violent
offenders?

(The government wants
to close the Ontario
Correctional Institute --
its best treatment facility
for these inmates.)

 
n What is the OCI?

The Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton is Ontario’s 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 federal prison).

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 they’ll 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 they’re returned to society.

n How 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 prisoner’s offence.

n What’s the OCI’s 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 one-third.

insideoci.jpg (7515 bytes)n What does it cost to run the OCI?

At 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.

n Punishment is not enough

The OCI’s method is based on the philosophy that punishment alone isn’t 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. It’s a healing, rather than a punitive approach.

n What’s happening to the OCI?

The 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 OCI’s 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.

n What’s 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 OCI’s professionals say they can’t 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 superjail system.

n What about cost?

Even if the proposed superjails are cheaper to run than the existing system (and that’s an open question), you have to ask: What is the cost of failing to treat violent and sexual offenders?

These inmates will all be released in fairly short order. There’s 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.

n  Inmate says: "don’t 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 can’t 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 we’ve hurt our victims. We learn to understand what they have gone through. For some inmates it’s the first time they’ve 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.

– Michael Mawhinney, Brampton

ocistaffers.jpg (8473 bytes)help save the oci!

Join the Friends of the Ontario Correctional Institute, and help us keep this world-renowned facility intact.

 

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.

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: saveoci@aol.com.

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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Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 100 Lesmill Rd. Toronto, ON M3B 3P8  (416) 443-8888  www.opseu.org