TORONTO - The province has started training 144 new correctional officers to increase staffing levels at Ontario's jails.

The government says the new recruits will help improve staff and inmate safety and improve program delivery at correctional facilities.

It says the group is the largest class of recruits to enter the Ontario Correctional Services College to date.

Recruits will complete an eight week course which includes mental health training, inmate management techniques and an assessment and evaluation.

Graduates will then be sent to provincial facilities across Ontario starting in March.

The training of the new recruits comes as the province reached a deal with 6,000 jail guards and probation officers last weekend, narrowly averting a strike.