TORONTO - Ontario is hiring 2,000 correctional officers over the next three years amid what critics call a crisis in corrections.

Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi says the new hires will increase staffing levels in jail, enhance access to rehabilitation and reintegration programming, and strengthen mental health supports.

The province says it has hired 710 correctional officers since 2013.

Guards, unions and opposition politicians have said Ontario's correctional facilities are understaffed to the point that it is jeopardizing guard and inmate safety.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the much-maligned Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) would be getting 16 new correctional officers.

Queen's Park announced that 139 new correctional officer graduates are being deployed to 15 prisons across Ontario to increase staffing levels.

It's unclear how many additional guards would be deployed to EMDC in relation to this new announcement.

The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is applauding the government's plan.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he is "relieved" the government is finally doing something to ease issues at jails across the province.

"To his credit, Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi accepted my invitation to tour some of our correctional facilities. I think he was shocked to see the deplorable conditions inmates were living in – and correctional officers were working under. Clearly, something had to be done, and done quickly," said Thomas in a news release.

Although Thomas added there are many questions unanswered about the announcement, including whether the new staff will be full time or casual.