The community safety and security ramifications of the soon-to-be-opened Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC) were questioned this week, as the director of Mimico’s new ‘superjail’ shared details about the correctional facility with LAMP Community Health Centre members.
Slated to opened on the site of the old Mimico Correctional Centre sometime early next year, Rose Buhagiar said the TSDC will replace the aging Toronto Jail (more commonly known as the Don Jail) and the Toronto West Detention Centre – housing upwards of 1,650 provincial inmates. A separate wing of the facility currently houses the Toronto Intermittent Centre (TIC), a 320-bed facility for inmates serving weekend intermittent sentences that opened last December.
During her 20-minute presentation on the TSDC Thursday night at LAMP’s Annual General Meeting – where she presented as the guest speaker – Buhagiar highlighted the security features to be implemented at the maximum security site to help quell resident anxiety over safety.
“Our security is supported by state-of-the-art systems including closed-circuit TV, touch-screen technology, metal detectors and scanner systems – and of course, our security technologies are supported by the dedicated, professional men and women of our organization, who are very highly trained,” she said, noting that although TSDC is designated ‘maximum security’ that doesn’t mean all of its inmates fall into that designation.
“Most of the inmates that will be housed at our institution will be on remand – meaning that they will be before the courts waiting for a court disposition or a decision on their matters,” she added.
“The remainder of the inmates will be serving provincial sentences of periods up to two-years-less-a-day.”
Buhagiar’s reassurances, however, didn’t do enough to ease the minds of TSDC’s neighbourbours, about 10 of whom took to the microphone during a 10-minute question-and-answer period to voice their concerns over the facility with the 28-year corrections veteran.
Lynda Ryder, director of human resources at National Silicates – which has a plant located right across the street from the TSDC at Kipling and Horner avenues – came to the meeting armed with safety questions for Buhagiar from her employees.
“We are a 24/7 operation and our employees are concerned. We’ve watched this institution grow and what started off as a small organization has grown and grown and grown. So, I’m here with a question from our employees: while they work 24/7, what kind of assurances are there for our security?” she asked.
Buhagiar reassured that the vast majority of TSDC’s releases will take place during daylight hours, and that for the release of offenders that the centre has advance notice of, discharge plans are put in place to make sure the release is a safe and seamless one for the community.
“We have a lot of offenders who have support systems, so when the back door is opened and they’re released from custody, family members come to pick them up and whisk them away so you won’t have any interaction with them,” she explained.
“For the offenders who do need support, our discharge planners will ensure that we get them back to their home community by providing transportation in the most cost-effective way – generally a non-refundable bus ticket to their home community.”
In the case of the release of a high-risk offender, however, Buhagiar said protocols dictate that the local police department be informed, at which time it is incumbent on the police to alert members of the community should they deem it necessary. Otherwise, once offenders are released after serving their time, Buhagiar said the TSDC no longer has any jurisdiction over them, and they are considered regular members of the public.
When questioned about community notification in the event of an inmate escape, Buhagiar said any such decision would fall under the purview of the police.
“Should a worst case scenario occur and an offender escapes, we have an obligation to notify our Toronto Police Service,” she said. “They then have their own protocols, and we have no control over what happens with respect to notifications if an offender escapes custody.”
Any such escape, however, would be unlikely under TSDC’s stringent security measures, Buhagiar assured.
“We have worked diligently to ensure that the building will provide for internal safety and security, which ultimately leads to public safety, using state-of-the-art security systems,” she said.
For regular updates on the progress of the TSDC, go to www.ontario.ca/tsdc