(London) Ontario prisons are overflowing with inmates. To address this problem, Solicitor General Michael Kerzner announced Monday that the province will add several hundred spaces throughout the system.

Ontario’s prison population has increased over the past 18 months. Data obtained by The Canadian Press thanks to the access to information law shows that the majority of establishments have exceeded their capacity.

As of September 30, 2023, there were an average of 8,889 people in provincial prisons, well beyond the capacity to hold 7,848 inmates. Overall, prisons were operating at 113 percent capacity at the time.

Ontario will reopen two intermittent detention centers at Toronto and London prisons to add up to 430 beds by 2026. The province will also add 18 beds to the Quinte Detention Center in Napanee and 184 beds to the new correctional complex from Brockville.

Kerzner said 200 correctional staff, including officers, nurses and support staff, will be hired as part of the expansion.

“We are expanding and building facilities that will help front-line staff do their jobs safely and effectively, while increasing the capacity to keep violent and repeat offenders off our streets,” he said.

Premier Doug Ford pledged in March to build more prisons to cope with the influx of inmates. The vast majority (81%) are presumed innocent and awaiting trial.

The province is building a new 345-bed prison in Thunder Bay at a cost of $1.2 billion. The Ford government is also considering a 235-bed prison in eastern Ontario, but that plan has faced opposition from locals who don’t want the prison built on agricultural land as planned.

The union representing correctional workers has long called for more staff, more resources and more mental health support, as prisons are bursting at the seams and labor shortages have caused a resource crisis human.

Correctional workers are increasingly being assaulted, and operational stress injuries and post-traumatic stress issues are on the rise. Suicides among correctional officers are also on the rise, said the union, which applauded the government’s expansion plans.

“This investment in personnel and infrastructure is a good example of the type of solution we need to keep communities, our staff and those who live within our walls safe,” said Chad Oldfield, spokesperson for the Ontario Public Employees Union and correctional officer, in a press release.

“We recognize the Ontario government’s ongoing commitment to supporting correctional staff. This will certainly help give frontline staff the additional tools they need to do their jobs safely. I hope this will also help alleviate some of the issues of violence against staff that we see on a regular basis. »