OPP to transport inmates

Vincent Ball

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor

The OPP will be in charge of transporting inmates scheduled to appear in court when the Brantford jail locks it doors on Wednesday, the province says.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says it has an agreement with the OPP to transfer inmates to and from Brantford courts. The inmates will be coming into the city for court appearances from various institutions, including the Maplehurst Correctional Facility in Milton.

The transportation of inmates is one of several steps the corrections ministry and the Ministry of the Attorney General are taking to address concerns raised by Mayor Chris Friel in recent weeks.

Friel chastised the two ministries for failing to come up with a "holding cell" plan to house inmates brought to Brantford to appear in court once the jail closes. As recently as last week, Friel said he was unaware of any plan to address the issue.

But, on Friday, a detailed plan was sent to Friel in a letter signed by Marie-France Lalonde, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.

The cost of the transportation of inmates by the OPP will not be downloaded to the municipalities, the letter states.

There are 15 holding cells capable of accommodating up to 32 inmates at a time at the provincial courthouse at 44 Queen St.

And there are two holding cells at the Superior Court of Justice building at 70 Wellington St., which can hold two inmates, the letter states.

Plans call for the use of technology at Sprucedale youth centre in Simcoe to enable those charged under the Young Offenders Act to appear in Brantford court by way of video to reduce pressure on holding cells in Brantford. Ministry officials also plan to explore the use of video to reduce in-person court appearances for adults, too.

In addition, work is underway to increase capacity for proper separation of prisoners at 44 Queen by adding secured doors to the cell area.

"We want to emphasize that throughout this process public safety will not be compromised," the ministers state in their letter. "The justice sector in Ontario has extensive experience in transferring prisoners to their court hearings.

"This is a critical part of what we do every day across the province, and we are committed to ensuring that Brantford experiences a seamless transition in the coming weeks.

The letter states that Brantford police have been a "strong partner" during the transition period and will continue to provide a safe environment within the court buildings, the letter states.

Friel said that he believes the province's plan is insufficient to "properly manage the separation of inmates that will be required.

"That said, I'm encouraged that action to address our primary concerns has been taken," he said.

"Of course, we will monitor the effectiveness of the interim transition plan and continue to provide feedback to the ministry to address ongoing concerns and work towards a more effective, permanent solution."

The mayor said that the long-term solution that makes the most sense for Brantford is for the province to build a new courthouse.

At Monday's meeting of council's estimates committee, which is considering the 2018 municipal budget, Friel brought forward a notice of motion calling for the formation of a Brantford courthouse working group. The group, which would consist of the mayor, two councillors, as well as representatives of local justice groups, would work to come up with a plan for a new courthouse.

The group would call on the province to consider Brantford as a high priority location for the redevelopment of courthouse facilities. The notice of motion cites serious safety concerns and suggests consolidation of such services to a common location.

Built in 1852, the Brantford jail is among the oldest jails in Ontario. Its closing was first announced in 1995 but was delayed.

In 2012, it was again announced the jail would close but, again, the closing was delayed as the province made changes to its correctional system. Last October, the province announced the jail would close and made plans to transfer prisoners. This month, city officials got word the jail would close as of Dec. 13.

Once the inmates are gone, the process of decommissioning the jail will begin.

Security equipment will be removed, the building will be cleaned and files will be archived.

At some point, the building, at Market and Nelson streets, will be turned over to Infrastructure Ontario for disposition.

Brantford Expositor 2017 ©