Reforming Ontario Corrections is a lengthy process dependent on the cooperation of staff in corporate offices of the MCSCS, in institutions, and in the community. The Government of Ontario has accepted the challenge of an ambitious reform agenda. A commitment to human rights while pursing transformation of this magnitude requires commitment at every level, every day.

While some obvious problems exist that require immediate attention, there is room for optimism. The limited number of reported incidents of inmate-on-staff violence at the Ontario Correctional Institute suggests that institutional violence can be impacted by implementing evidence-based best practices. The TSDC Case Study revealed that a number of empirical tools could be utilized to mitigate violence experienced at the institution. As there are substantial differences between institutions, site-specific reviews are required; the methodology used in the TSDC Case Study could be applied to conduct analyses at other provincial facilities. Importantly, to truly address institutional violence in Ontario, it is necessary for corrections to work with justice and other partners to ensure that custody in a correctional facility is used, as the law requires, only as a last resort in the absence of suitable alternatives.

It is recommended that a detailed analysis of institutional violence in each specific facility be undertaken to identify localized solutions to enhance safety. The study must also examine reported inmate-on-inmate incidents of violence. For example, TSDC reported 269 incidents of inmate-on-inmate assaults in 2017, while other institutions with smaller inmate populations reported a higher number of incidents (e.g., 316 at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, 368 at Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre). These variations in institutional violence across facilities warrant further exploration via site-specific analyses, and though it was not possible to do so in the present report, future analyses should be conducted on all types of institutional violence (i.e., inmate-on-inmate, inmate-on-staff, staff-on-inmate, and staff-on-staff).

There are a number of encouraging developments that promise a dedication to increased oversight, transparency, and the cornerstones of safety, human rights, and dignity. The Correctional Services and Reintegration Act, 2018 – once it is proclaimed – will advance a number of initiatives that are key to reforming Ontario corrections. Appropriate limits on the use of disciplinary segregation along with necessary and safe alternatives will aid in the pursuit of humane (and legal) corrections.

The importance and utility of external oversight and cooperation has also been recognized. The Inspector General of Correctional Services role created in the Act will improve transparency and accountability in provincial corrections. Horizontal initiatives, such as collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, recognized that certain correctional needs (such as healthcare services for inmates) are best handled by the experts in ministries outside of MCSCS. Internally, the ministry’s creation of a new Modernization Division is now fully operational. Efforts to update technological systems and improve data reporting and collection have been initiated.

The recommendations made by the Independent Review of Ontario Corrections highlight a number of mechanisms that could dramatically improve the conditions of confinement in Ontario. There is a window of opportunity to turn our aspirations of a fairer, more proportionate, safer, and more effective justice system into a reality. Achieving this goal is an essential component of a healthy and safe Ontario. I encourage the MCSCS and the Government of Ontario to maintain the momentum of recent reform efforts as a sense of urgency has been linked to successful change initiatives.