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Mayoral candidates debate how to handle CNCC prisoner drop-offs

The latest county figures show that nearly 35% of people experiencing homelessness do so because they have been released from health care or correctional facilities

Should the city’s next council prevent former prisoners from being dropped off at the downtown bus station unless they’re from Barrie?

Alex Nuttall, one of the mayoral candidates in the Oct. 24 local election, wants the council to support what his campaign staffers are calling a new approach that will help people who are displaced from the Central North Correctional Center (CNCC) in Penetanguishene – aka ‘Superjail’ – with their journey back to their community.

“I believe the City of Barrie has the resources to support our own reform and reintegration into society, but we cannot be responsible for the rest of the province’s released inmates,” Nuttall said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

“Our social services in Barrie are overflowing. It’s evident across the city with the visible increase in beggars at our freeway ramps,” he added. “The way sustainable aid is delivered needs to change.”

This isn’t Nuttall’s first kick into this particular can.

Last month, the former Barrie councilman and MP said on Facebook, “I know our community is willing and able to help those who are being released from Barrie to take their next steps forward in life. But we can’t be responsible for prisoners from across the province.

“I will work with our provincial government to ensure that those who are not from Barrie are released back into the community they are from and that those who are have the opportunity to prepare for future success.” decide,” he added.

And one of Nuttall’s campaign pamphlets says, “End the prisoner transport in Barrie.”

Barry Ward, who is also running for mayor and has been on the borough council for 22 years, disagrees with the idea.

“Instead of ‘ending’ the levy, which is probably impossible – we have no authority to order Central North Correctional Center or any other facility to do anything – we need to ‘fix’ the levy so it’s better Barrie and more humane.” to those who are being deposed,” he said.

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“The John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society would like to meet the people who are being released from correctional facilities to ensure they get on a connecting bus or, if they are from Barrie, that they have the support they need to get them are not on the street. “District added. “The problem is, no group gets matching information. They’re just as frustrated as everyone else.”

Ward said he put a motion on the council’s agenda earlier this year asking the province to hire an integration facilitator for CNCC, and it passed unanimously.

“Other places have them,” he said. “That would go a long way towards fixing the drop-off. The province has the power to make this happen. In short, let’s find workable solutions to problems that benefit everyone.”

Gerry Marshall, who is also running for Barrie mayor, questions the scale of the problem.

“We’re seeing some released inmates coming into Barrie to catch a bus that’s going from Barrie to their destination,” he said. “When this occurs, our charity groups will be notified when the released inmates will arrive in Barrie and will meet the released inmates at the Barrie Transit Terminal to help them make the correct bus connections.

“The upshot of all this is that released inmates make up less than 10 percent of our city’s homeless population,” Marshall added. “Although the city does not have the authority to dictate how the province administers the release of inmates, including their post-release destination, I would attempt to meet with CNCC to explore how the city and prison can better work together, to ensure that 100 percent of inmates return to their respective destinations.”

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Weldon Hachey, who is also running for mayor, wants to know how Barrie residents feel about this issue.

“I don’t want to guess the opinion of the citizens of Barrie,” Hachey said. “We’d certainly have to ask, but I think most would agree that we don’t want to take in tons of ex-convicts or homeless people from other cities.

“If we’re building a better community and need workers for the businesses that we’re supposed to be expanding, then the people coming here would fill the demand for jobs, then that’s different,” he added. “We cannot expect our citizens to immigrate here without work. If they have family or work here, then I’m fine with that. When others come here and compete with residents for jobs, or we have to take care of more unemployed, the answer is clear.

“If the province wants to pay for them and/or create jobs for them here, then of course we wouldn’t have such a problem given their history. If they expect us to take care of them, we have every right to tell them no,” Hachey said.

Ward also said it was an issue Queen’s Park needed to resolve.

“It is clear the province needs to take action and hire someone to ensure those leaving the CNCC are met upon arrival in Barrie to be given directions, either by putting them on one bus to another community – where they would hopefully be greeted by someone – or connected to the help they need in Barrie,” he said.

“Let us take an approach that is both compassionate and helps break the cycle of people being released, reoffending and returning to Penetanguishene. That’s the way to save money,” Ward added. “While we are at this, let’s encourage the Province to also provide funds so that those who are released from the RVH (Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre) and have no place to go can also have some guidance and help” .

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Andrew Gordon, Rob Haverson and Mike McCann, all of whom are also running for mayor, did not respond to a request for comment from BarrieToday on this topic Tuesday before publication.

The County of Simcoe’s most recent homelessness report states that nearly 35 percent of people who experience homelessness do so because they have been released from health care or correctional facilities.

City transport workers said last February that before the pandemic, an average of three bus tickets a day were being requested by people who had been released from CNCC in Barrie and wanted to leave the community.

The city does not receive data on the total number of people released to Barrie from the Penetanguishene Correctional Facility.

Andrew Morrison, of the Department of Solicitor Generals, which oversees CNCC, said it was unable to speculate on platform proposals from candidates running in local elections.

However, he said that ministry staff to assist inmates released from provincial custody will make reasonable efforts to assist inmates to travel to their home community if they do not have funds of their own to travel home – how z at the bus station or buy a bus ticket.

For example, it would find housing by asking an inmate if they have a friend or family member who can help with housing and/or transportation, and by working with community partners, local authorities and other organizations to find appropriate supports for to find the accommodation.

The ministry connects inmates with available third-party support, including indigenous organizations, multicultural support, and multisectoral services. It supports inmates to continue taking their prescribed medications and to continue programming and/or treatment in the community.

The ministry says it will continue to work with community service providers, municipalities and indigenous communities and organizations to support community reintegration.

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