Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Pubdate: Tue, 23 Jun 1998
Author: Tracey Tyler


Government officials cancel meeting on treatment centre

The Ontario government can't promise federal offenders will receive help in
the province's ``superjails'' if a Sault Ste. Marie treatment centre

A meeting between federal and provincial officials to discuss the future of
the Northern Treatment Centre was cancelled unexpectedly yesterday, leaving
many questions unanswered.

The 96-bed centre is funded jointly by Ottawa and Queen's Park and up to
half the patients have been federal offenders. An operating agreement calls
for financial penalties to be imposed on any party terminating the
operating agreement with less than two years notice.

Federal Solicitor-General Andy Scott has indicated Ontario wants to sever
the agreement and says he expects it to pay, but so far the provincial
government doesn't know how much it might cost to break the deal.

``We haven't yet got to that stage,'' Ross Virgo, a spokesperson for the
provincial corrections and solicitor-general's ministry, said yesterday.

Virgo said the question of whether the province will establish a new
treatment facility elsewhere in conjunction with the federal government is
still up in the air. ``That's not at all clear,'' he said.

The Northern Treatment Centre may lose its treatment function and be
converted into another use, possibly a city jail, as part of the province's
restructuring of its correctional system.

Virgo says treatment for offenders with anger, drug and sex abuse problems
will still be offered - in fact expanded - through facilities to be set up
in new superjails in Milton, Penetanguishene and Lindsay.

The Sault centre, however, has received high praise for its ability to
offer inmates intensive treatment in a setting removed from what's seen as
the destructive environment of a conventional jail.

All federal penitentiaries in Ontario offer treatment programs and will
continue to do so, a spokesperson for Scott said yesterday.

However, most are in the nature of therapy sessions that offenders attend
during the day, returning to their cells at night.

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Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)