Barrie city councillor says lack of reintegration officers at prison in Penetanguishene straining local shelter/outreach resources

Officers assist offenders with transition back into the community

City Coun. Barry Ward admits he was quite surprised the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) in Penetanguishene got none of the 25 new reintegration officers the province announced on Tuesday it had hired.

These officers work with individuals to support a successful transition from jail to back into the community, including linking offenders to social services, housing and other community programs.

“I mean, people are basically given a bus ticket to Barrie, and they get off the bus and there’s nobody to help them find housing, and they immediately become homeless,” says Ward.

He says he was at a meeting with Ward 2 Coun. Keenan Aylwin and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, where the issue was raised again.

Ward has an item for discussion at council general committee on Jan. 24 dealing with this issue.

“That a letter be sent to the Solicitor General of Ontario requesting that community reintegration officers be provided for the Central North Correctional Centre to improve individuals’ transitions from custody to neighbouring communities, facilitate linkages to support services and reduce pressure on the Barrie area sheltering and outreach system,” reads the item for discussion.

Ward says when Simcoe County did a homeless enumeration in November 2020, it showed that 38 per cent of all homeless people in the county had been released from either hospitals or jail.

“That’s the low-hanging fruit, in my opinion,” says Ward. “Those are the people we should be able to help because we know they are going to be homeless.”

“There should be somebody to help them. I am not blaming the hospitals or jails because they don’t have the staff to do it.”

In a media release on Tuesday, the government said the new officers are part of a $23 million investment over two years to hire 50 additional probation and parole officers across the province.

The release indicated some new officers began their role in December at jails in Thunder Bay, Brockville and Sarnia, while others will be onboard at facilities in Toronto, London and Napanee later this winter.