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Additional capacity at EMDC seen as step toward preventing violence, deaths

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Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner has announced 630 new beds at correctional facilities across the province, including the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC). The added capacity will be rolled out in phases.

Speaking in London, Kerzner said the Regional Intermittent Centre (RIC Centre) at EMDC will be reopened and repurposed. It will house 110 beds.

He also said the government is hiring up to 200 new correctional staff across the province.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping the province safe and keeping dangerous offenders and lawbreakers off our streets,” he stated. “From auto theft to hate crimes, to gun and gang violence, criminals in this province will not see us on the sidelines.”

The number of staff being added at EMDC has not yet been determined.

The RIC Centre at EMDC was opened by the previous Liberal government in 2016. Its purpose was to ease overcrowding inside the jail, housing inmates serving weekend sentences.

Intermittent facilities in London and Toronto were closed in 2022 with the expansion of GPS monitoring. According to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, approved intermittent offenders and those under community supervision given a conditional sentence or granted parole were fitted with ankle bracelets.

Monday’s announcement comes just weeks after the province called a group inquest into the deaths of eight EMDC inmates between 2017 and 2021, several of which were drug related. When asked whether the new measures are enough to prevent further inmate deaths, the minister took aim at the Liberals.

“Well you know what, when you look back, when the Liberals were in office, they brought the correctional system; they brought public safety to its knees. Our government has made such record investments,” he exclaimed.

Chad Oldfield, who serves as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Ministry Employee Relations Committee co-chair, called the additional capacity a step in the right direction.

“Hopefully it will mitigate some of the challenges that we’re seeing with overcapacity across the province. But, you know with the violence we’re seeing against staff, you know the large amount of contraband issues that we’re seeing as well, this is going to help. Additional staff, additional beds, will make it easier for the staff in the front lines,” said Oldfield.

Toronto-based criminal lawyer Hilary Dudding said lockup isn’t always the answer when it comes to overcrowding, referring to conditions at EMDC.

“An investment in community-based bail supervision would be really welcome here, as opposed to just creating more beds, especially given, when I think the primary problem is having staff to safely and fairly run the facility,” she said.

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