The community has received its response from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in their eleventh-hour plea to keep the Sarnia Jail open, and it’s not the answer that OPSEU Local 128 members and the public Save The Sarnia Jail committee had hoped.
Minister Madeleine Meilleur, in her formal response to a meeting held on Dec. 6, 2011, between her and representatives from the local jail employee’s union as well as those from the Save The Sarnia Jail committee, said that while there are ‘points of agreement’ there are also ‘some differing assumptions’.
Meilleur agreed with Save The Sarnia Jail’s costing assessment as to how much it costs per day to house inmates locally, but disagreed with their contention that the new facility being built in Windsor will cost more in the long run. In fact, the Ministry has said that it will cost $55.00 less per day to house a prisoner in the new jail compared to the $180.00 a day it presently costs to keep someone in the Sarnia Jail.
Another point of contention between the parties is the assertion that a new jail wouldn’t be required if the local Sarnia jail was kept open after all. On this issue, the Minister said, “A new facility is required regardless of what happens to the Sarnia jail,” adding that the new jail “is being built, first and foremost, to replace the aging Windsor jail, not solely to replace Sarnia jail.”
A Freedom of Information request by Sarnia MPP Bob Bailey revealed a cost/benefit analysis was not used to justify the impending jail closure in Sarnia.
Opponents of the planned closure have argued that the Ministry has not adequately vetted their concerns and contend that the Sarnia jail’s closing has more to do with politics than saving money.
“Our position remains unchanged to close the Sarnia jail in 2014 and to move inmates and staff to the South West Detention Centre,” Meilleur said in summary and continued saying, “I remain satisfied that the decision to close the Sarnia jail is the right decision for Ontario.”
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has requested a face-to-face meeting with the minister as the Sarnia Jail Committee continues to lobby to keep the Sarnia Jail open.