- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 2 Feb 1978, p. 242-257
- Drea, The Honourable Frank, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The Criminal Justice System. The Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services. A description of the system. A brief historical background. The speaker's approach to corrections. The costs of crime and the system. How offenders were handled in the past. Some pilot projects for change in the system. The variety of approaches possible. The expansion of opportunities for offenders to demonstrate their willingness to take a responsible part in society. Some details of the new approach. The role of citizen volunteers in helping offenders. The Community Resource Centre Program. Community Work Orders in lieu of incarceration. Some promises kept by the speaker. More goals.
- Date of Original
- 2 Feb 1978
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- FEBRUARY 2, 1978
The Fun and Games are Over
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable Frank Drea, M.P.P., MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO
CHAIRMAN The President, Peter Hermant
Ladies and gentlemen: Robert Vezina, writing in the late lamented Toronto Telegram some years ago, described our guest of honour today as follows: "One of the first things I noticed about Frank Drea ... was that he didn't wear his clothes. Rather, he defied them to keep up with him. He won; the clothes lost."
Obviously, changes have been made, at least in Frank Drea's wardrobe. The clothes now obviously keep up, but not, I assure you, because the speed at which he operates has been reduced.
For example, only moments after it was announced last September 21st that he was being appointed Minister of Correctional Services in the Ontario Cabinet, Frank Drea was referring to himself as "Minister of Jails" and describing plans to increase efficiency in the province's institutions, reduce the cost of prison services, examine the relevance of Toronto's Don Jail and offering a flag of truce to the provincial Ombudsman.
But then, James Francis Drea is used to moving and thinking on his feet.
He was born in St. Catharines and when he decided he wanted a college education and a job as a reporter, simultaneously, he got both at the same time by working for The Buffalo Courier Express in order to pay his tuition at Canisius College.
Graduating in history and English with honours in philosophy and theology, Drea went to work for and on The Toronto Telegram where he plied his trade as a crusading journalist first as labour columnist, for which he won the Heywood Broun award for his work on behalf of immigrant construction workers, and later as founder of the Action Line feature in that same paper.
On the way, he also had some other activities: vice-chairman, the board of review of the Ontario Department of Social and Family services; president, the Canadian Society of Professional Journalists; member, National Committee for the Abolishment of Capital Punishment; member, the Catholic Social Life Conference and one of the founders of the Credit Counselling Service of Metropolitan Toronto.
During his newspaper days, Frank Drea had the reputation of dynamic reporter, one who was inventive and imaginative.
The story is told of a night in Pittsburgh when he couldn't get a cab, so he hitched a ride in a passing paddy wagon. Unfortunately, there was a riot call and Drea ended up in the back of the wagon with seven screaming, clawing ladies.
"Hell," he said, "I didn't even lay a hand on those ladies. One of them took a swipe at me with a razor--ruined a new winter coat."
And on another occasion, Frank Drea managed to get an exclusive interview with the late Jimmy Hoffa. The only place apparently that they could get some privacy was in a hotel room bathroom, and even then Hoffa wouldn't talk until he had turned the shower fully on. "You never know what they're going to bug next," Hoffa is reputed to have said at the time.
In 1971, Frank Drea turned his energies from journalism to politics and won the provincial seat of Scarborough Centre.
As you might imagine from his previous career, it was not long until he was thoroughly involved in government and he has been a member of the select committee on snowmobiles and all-touring vehicles and the select committee on highway transportation of goods.
As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, he was author of the Travel Act, mover of the Consumer Bill of Rights, mover of amendments to the Liquor Act, and homebuyers legislation.
In his short time as Minister of Correctional Services, Frank Drea has taken on the high profile usually afforded other ministers and other ministries.
He has dealt so far with the media and the public in his usual direct, no-nonsense way--a refreshing breath of air--but one keeps waiting for the bubble to burst. On Monday last, The Toronto Sun editorialized under the title, "Lethal Media"--"The most risky thing a politician can have going for him is the approval and adoration of the media."
The Sun is undoubtedly correct.
And yet, I believe all of us here in this room would rather agree with the Roman poet, Horace--and I won't beleaguer you with the original Latin--who wrote, "He who has begun the task has half done it; have the courage to be wise."
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to introduce to you the Minister of Correctional Services in the Government of Ontario, the Honourable Frank Drea, M.P.P., who will address us under the title, "The Fun and Games are Over".
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: Last Friday I officially opened the new Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre. It was gratifying to participate in an event which will result in the closure of another outdated penal institution, namely the old Barton Street Jail, which, like its ancient Toronto counterpart, the much maligned Don Jail, had long ago outlived its usefulness.
Perhaps, however, I got as much personal satisfaction out of a minor event that preceded last Friday's ceremonies. The Ministry's Co-ordinator of Food Services informs me that she had two inmates working all day helping to bring kitchen and dining room equipment into the new building. When they were finished, one inmate said to the other:
"That's probably the hardest I ever worked in my life." "Well," said his companion, "you had better get used to it because, according to the newspapers, this new Minister of Corrections is going to make all able-bodied inmates work."
The first inmate was outraged. "If I have to work, then I'm not coming back to prison," he said.
Maybe, ladies and gentlemen, that's the point of the exercise.
The Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services is only one element in a comprehensive, but not necessarily well co-ordinated set of services often termed the Criminal Justice System.
At the "front end" of this system is the work done by police forces and some social agencies in the area of public education, crime prevention programs, and, in the case of police, the apprehension of the lawbreaker.
The various levels of adult criminal courts are the next stage of the system, and it is here that decisions are made regarding prosecution under existing law and judgements are rendered which have great immediate impact upon the next stage of the system, namely, corrections. However, it will be clear also that increased police activity leading to a greater number of persons apprehended and charged will have "downstream" effects upon corrections.
A proliferation of laws beyond what is necessary to maintain the peace and security of society means a wasteful use of police resources and increased workloads for the courts and the correctional system. Limited sentencing alternatives available to judges and prosecutors leads to committing offenders to incarceration in expensive institutional accommodation, when various alternative dispositions could subject the individual to censure or deterrence, while allowing him to continue to work in the community and support himself and his family.
Finally, a lack of initiative or imagination on the part of those responsible for the correctional component of the criminal justice system will result in the costly, unproductive warehousing of offenders in revolving-door institutions and programs.
When I was appointed to my present portfolio, I did not arrive as a neophyte in the corrections field. I had been deeply interested and directly involved in the criminal justice field for a number of years. As a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations I was involved in seeking to uncover frauds and other rip-offs of the public in order to prosecute the perpetrators.
I was also an active participant in policy consideration in the justice field, an involvement which brought me into constant contact with some of the best minds in this field including the current Attorney General and my present Deputy Minister.
What I have tried to do is to bring a fresh approach to corrections. I have looked critically at what has gone before and attempted to point to new directions for the future. And let's face it, there are real problems in this field and no easy answers.
Realizing this, I have taken my case to the public and asked for your understanding, your participation, and your support.
We all know that crime is a costly business. It costs a great deal to apprehend the offender and to process him through the courts. If he is sentenced to prison, the community not only pays an exorbitant price to house him, but it must also pick up the tab for supporting his wife and family while he, the breadwinner, is incarcerated.
I am a practical person. I am also a taxpayer. I like to think I am also a hard-nosed businessman and do not like to see money wasted on operations that do not get results. Obviously, then, I find a great deal to worry about in our present approach to offenders.
A few statistics will give you an appreciation of the size and complexity of the problem. In the fiscal year ending March 31, 1977, there were approximately 60,000 committals to Ontario jails. Some of these individuals were there only a short time on remand, or until they were granted bail. Those who received sentences of less than two years were transferred to various provincial correctional facilities. All those sentenced to more than two years were sent to federal penitentiaries.
On any given day I have 30,000 people under my care. The vast majority, or approximately 24,000, are on probation or parole in the community. The remaining 6,000 are in institutions. It is the latter group which poses the greatest problem for they are costing you and me, as taxpayers, over $40 a day to house; and, in addition, they are an economic drain on our pocketbooks in various other ways including such expenses as supporting their families, as I have already mentioned.
In contrast, it costs approximately $2.40 a day to supervise an individual in the community. Perhaps the worst part of this whole situation is that prisons have not been particularly successful in one of their major goals, that of helping the offender to give up crime and to become a law-abiding and productive citizen.
As I have indicated, there are no easy answers. I have looked at what has gone before and I have set out to change the system.
Let us examine briefly what has been attempted in the past. At one time offenders were simply locked away for punishment and contemplation. Gradually a model was developed which relied on vocational and academic training. Later, the idea of counselling and therapeutic treatment was incorporated.
Unfortunately none of these approaches individually, or in combination, seemed to get improved results. In recent years the emphasis has been on life skills, or what might be termed survival techniques for the modern society. This includes the teaching of how to manage money, how to apply for a job and present one's self at a job interview, and so forth.
The tragic fact is, however, that we still send too many people to prison who don't need to be there and who could benefit from alternate dispositions. There is no doubt that there are some offenders who require treatment, or who need academic and vocational upgrading. There is no doubt either that some offenders need to be locked in secure institutions to ensure your safety and mine.
It is tragically true also that there are some offenders who, despite our best intentions, cannot be "cured" of their criminality because we simply have not developed techniques that can reclaim them for a normal life in the community.
We cannot write off these individuals--we must continue our attempts to try and help them. At the same time we must realize that the best we may be able to do, considering limitations of present knowledge in the social science field, is to provide humane warehousing for such individuals.
What I have said is, "Let's stop putting the petty offender in jail and squandering our tax dollars to maintain him there. Let's start finding alternative dispositions in the court that will keep these people in the community under inexpensive supervision where they can make some worthwhile contribution to that community. Let's start making offenders accept some responsibility for their crimes rather than simply allowing them to lounge around a jail watching television or involved in some equally non-productive activity." Specifically, I am encouraging the judiciary to sentence petty offenders to community service.
Why shouldn't offenders shovel snow for senior citizens or mow the lawn for these elderly people who have worked long and hard to build the society in which we live?
Why shouldn't petty offenders help to clean up parks and/or remove pollution from river banks and other public areas?
I am pleased to say that my ministry is sponsoring a number of pilot projects in which individuals perform community service in cities across the province. These individuals live at home, work at their regular jobs during the day, and perform their community service responsibilities in what, normally, would have been their leisure time.
I do not dismiss out-of-hand the need to provide vocational and academic upgrading and/or therapeutic treatment and counselling for some offenders. My ministry realizes there must be a variety of approaches available within our system. Offenders are not a heterogeneous group. This is a large and culturally diverse province and our client/inmate population is similarly diverse. What may be appropriate for an Ojibway or Cree native person from the north will be unsuitable for the urban youth from the core of Toronto or Hamilton.
My ministry accepts its responsibility to provide appropriate training and treatment to meet diverse needs but I am insisting that this should always be oriented toward the realities of society.
It is a fact that a large number of offenders are not particularly interested in receiving training or treatment. In my view these individuals should not be sitting around, sentenced to boredom and enforced idleness. This only leads them to dream up unpleasant surprises for my staff (i.e., escape attempts) or other unpleasant ways in which to work off excess energy (i.e., riots and assaults).
We live in a goal-oriented, work-oriented society. Offenders have to learn to live and function effectively in that society. To deny them responsibilities and opportunities to demonstrate a willingness to work or to learn useful skills is, in my view, immoral. Yet we've been doing this for years, not only in this province or this country but in most correctional jurisdictions around the world.
My plan is to expand opportunities for offenders to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of accepting their responsibilities in our society. And let's not underrate the willingness of many offenders to accept this challenge.
Three years ago we gave inmates in eastern Ontario the opportunity to work as volunteers in a large centre for the mentally retarded. They have done an excellent job in providing services and compassionate help to residents of this facility. So successful was this pilot project that inmates soon became involved working with elderly psychiatric patients at another facility.
In other parts of the province an increasing number of inmates from our institutions are working with the mentally ill, the physically handicapped, and other people who need special care and attention.
These inmates are providing a service which was not previously available, or they are bolstering an existing service which could not have expanded otherwise due to a lack of funds. We believe also that the inmates themselves have benefited from the experience of helping others.
As an incentive for inmates to accept responsibility for their own destinies, changes are being made in the system under which inmates presently receive automatic forgiveness of one-quarter of their sentence upon arriving at a correctional institution. In addition they can earn days off their sentence for good behaviour.
This automatic remission concept is essentially negative. You receive an automatic reduction in your sentence to begin with but have additional days added on if you do not perform adequately on a day-today basis.
Under the new system all reductions in sentences will be earned on the basis of good performance, at a rate of one day earned reduction for each three days served. Obviously, consistent work performance combined with good general behaviour will also result in favourable consideration for earlier release into the community under parole supervision.
In simple terms, as many people as possible in Ontario prisons will work when they can and, if their performance and motivation is consistently high, they will be reducing the length of their sentences as they go along. Those who refuse to work or to perform in an acceptable manner will serve every single day of their sentence.
The days of getting something for nothing in our prisons in Ontario are over. You will work for what you get. If you refuse to take advantage of the opportunities provided, you are the author of your own misfortune.
This approach seems eminently fair to me and in keeping with the day-today realities of life in a society in which all of us must accept responsibility and in which there can be no free rides.
I do not want to create the impression that I see myself as a knight in shining armour who is attempting, single-handedly, to drag a backward correctional system into the twentieth century. There is much to be proud of in the Ontario correctional system. I promised that in the first four months after my appointment to this ministry I would visit all fifty-six correctional institutions in the province as well as various other facilities and field offices.
I achieved that goal and, in doing so, was very impressed with the staff of the ministry. I think in terms of dedication and commitment they stack up extremely well with any jurisdiction in the world. Ontario also has some of the best physical facilities in the correctional field.
Many of the programs I am promoting are possible because of the excellent groundwork which has been laid by the staff of my ministry. What has been lacking is a high profile for Corrections. Well, if you've been reading the newspapers you'll know that the last thing Corrections has been suffering from lately is a low profile.
One of the saving graces for any cabinet minister is to have a good civil service to fall back on to keep him headed in the right direction.
As I have indicated, there are many excellent programs which have been undertaken by the staff of my ministry in recent years and I am merely serving as a catalyst and promoter of some of these projects which are worthy of the public's attention.
The main thrust in recent years has been toward community corrections. The days are long gone when the walls around prisons serve as much to keep the public out as to keep the inmates in.
In recent years citizen volunteers have played an increasingly important role in helping offenders. Many volunteers come into our institutions each day to devote their time, energy and talents to helping inmates. Other volunteers work on a one-to-one basis with probationers. My ministry is anxious to increase the involvement of citizen volunteers and we are encouraging and helping to expand probation services, the use of community work orders, and the concept of restitution.
In the last three-and-one-half years the ministry has opened twenty-two Community Resource Centres where individuals can live in small residences and work in the community while completing their sentences. Two of these facilities provide an innovative approach to dealing with offenders from northern institutions who, in the past, merely sat out their time in the local jail. These two facilities provide for healthy employment working in the bush cutting pulpwood.
The ministry plans to expand the Community Resource Centre Program which, incidentally, provides accommodation currently for 234 inmates at half the cost of housing them in jails and correctional centres. In this connection, we are in the process of closing Glendale Adult Training Centre at Simcoe. This is one of a number of similar facilities for young adults aged sixteen to twenty-three years who are serving their first reformatory sentence.
Many of these inmates have built up a substantial local jail record and a reformatory incarceration is a reflection of their persistence in anti-social behaviour rather than the seriousness of a single offence.
With the courts moving rapidly toward Community Work Orders in lieu of incarceration for minor offenders, very few short-term prisoners will be sent to local jails in the future. This, inevitably, will mean the dwindling of the youth population in Adult Training Centres which now provide academic and vocational training programs.
Since most of the non-security type inmates now at Glendale can have their needs met in the community, in future, this type of inmate will be placed in Community Resource Centres. Instead of training programs in institutions, they will receive on-the-job training in industry, or will continue their education programs in community facilities. They will live in small groups of eight to fifteen and will be provided with specialized counselling when required.
We are convinced that this concept of the small community unit for the youthful offender who is not violent holds more promise than the heavy reliance of the past on restricted programming confined to institutions.
The Community Resource Centres are only a part of the thrust into the community connected with the broad expansion of the ministry's Temporary Absence Program. Under this program, large numbers of inmates are permitted to take academic or vocational training, or to work at gainful employment in the community during the day, returning at night to correctional institutions.
Those working at jobs in the community contribute toward their keep in the institution and help to support their families and pay taxes and other normal deductions from their pay.
Ninety-five per cent of the inmates complete temporary absences without committing criminal offences, making this a highly successful program from a rehabilitative point of view. On the economic side, these inmates earn approximately one-and-a-quarter million dollars a year, which is "found money" if one looks at the situation prior to the Temporary Absence Program when these inmates were merely a drag on the taxpayer's pocketbook because they did not earn a single cent.
If I tend to be stressing the economics of corrections it is because, as I have said, I view myself as a businessman and a long-suffering taxpayer. In this connection, I find myself questioning the present strictures placed on the Ontario correctional system by federal legislation and by historical jurisdictional splits between federal and provincial authority.
The federal government and the Ontario government both operate institutions, forestry camps and halfway houses; both fund private agency correctional services; both have parole-granting authority and supervise parolees; both engage in correctional planning and research; both have information systems, training resources and separate management structures.
This is costly and wasteful duplication and, frequently, it operates to the disadvantage of the inmate. Thus, females from any part of Ontario, or indeed the country, who are sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more are sent to the Women's Prison at Kingston, while here in Ontario we have a surplus of excellent accommodation now, thanks to our community programming thrust.
As to parole, the Federal Board has powers to grant parole in respect of Criminal Code offences. Ontario can grant parole on the indeterminate portion of a definite-indeterminate sentence. Thus, persons with definite sentences who are imprisoned under provincial statutes cannot be paroled, even though they may be suitable candidates.
Recent changes in the law will allow the provinces to enter into agreement with the federal authorities and to assume responsibility for parole of all persons serving sentences of two years less a day.
I shall be negotiating with the federal government shortly regarding the assumption of responsibility in these areas, the costs of services, etc., with a view to achieving a greater degree of integration of corrections in Ontario and corresponding cost savings. In the future we must tackle broader issues of jurisdictional split in services, associated costs and possible economies.
When I became a Minister last September I promised to do three things:
1. To take the problems and programs in corrections to the public and ask for their support and understanding.
2. To ensure the Ombudsman's office wide access to all aspects of the ministry's operations so that any grievances and/or injustices would be fully aired.
services and facilities by the provincial and federal governments.
I believe I have been successful in achieving my first two goals, although, admittedly, I have ruffled some feathers along the way.
In regard to the third goal, I am optimistic of bringing about some major improvements.
There are other goals which I hope to achieve that some cynics feel are not attainable.
For example, I believe that we have failed miserably to find solutions to the perplexing problems surrounding certain groups of offenders. In the past, we have tended to "write off" the most serious behaviour problems by dead-ending them in maximum security institutions where they have little or no hope of getting back into programs that could benefit them.
In the case of sex offenders and certain other inmates who require protective custody, we have deprived them of opportunities to take part in many programs available to the general inmate population. This is wrong. And it doesn't help much that we have done this through no malice toward the particular inmate, but because of our humanitarian desire to protect him from fellow inmates.
We must come to grips with these failures of the past. We must find new and better methods of providing help for these hapless individuals. I believe that answers can be found and I have challenged my staff and others interested in this field to suggest new ways of overcoming these glaring shortcomings in our present system.
I challenge you as leaders in the community to join in the debate and to come forward with your ideas.
No one can tell me that we cannot reach rational and reasonable solutions to these problems. To dismiss a search for answers by saying: "It can't be done," is not good enough.
In this connection, I would remind you that, when I took over the Ministry of Correctional Services last fall I was told that the old Don Jail could not be closed until 1981 or later.
I closed it the day before New Year's Day, 1977.
Now, with your help, I'd like to open some new doors ... I would like to inject some fresh ideas into correctional thinking in this province and this country.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Mr. R. Bredin Stapells, Q.C., a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.