Ontario releases more than 1,900 inmates, many with nowhere to go
SUDBURY -- The province of Ontario has been releasing hundreds of inmates, as of late, over public safety concerns due to COVID-19, but some say these men and women are being left with nowhere to go.
John was recently let out of the Sudbury Jail after serving a sentence for assault.
He's also had a difficult time struggling with his addictions.
"I was in the Sudbury Jail for about a month and they released me on a conditional sentence, 12 months," said John.
"It was due to COVID-19, they said it was a light sentence due to my previous history."
He's asked that we not use his last name or identify him out of concerns for his own personal safety.
According to "John," there wasn't much in the way of physical distancing until that point.
He had lived with a cell partner and there was up to 16 people who lived on the range.
"It was nerve-wracking (thinking about the virus) because you never know, right?"
The difficult part of his release was finding out how there wasn't much in the way of available help on the outside, particularly when it came to his rehabilitation.
"There's really no support, everything's shut down, even social assistance, it's hard to get in there, right?"
John says he still has no idea where to go.
"They need to offer more to the inmates here, cause they kick you on the street, you have nowhere to go, they expect you to follow the rules and what not but they make it hard," he explained.
The province says, between March 13 and April 1, the total population of adult inmates in its correctional system decreased by 1,901 in a bid to preserve public safety.
"People with mental health problems, most inmates have some kind of issue, some kind of underlying issue obviously, there's no rehabilitation for them they just let them back out on the street and then they see them back in the jail within I dunno probably a month or two down the road," said Miranda Thornton, the victim in the case.
Thornton says she's not against the idea of him being released but believes he should have been released with the proper supports in place.
"Nobody can take him in, I stepped up to the plate, I wanted to open up an emergency shelter for addictions and mental health, totally qualified, and I was turned down by the city, they told me that they do not fund, only fund the homeless, not mental health and addictions," said Bob Johnston.
Johnston is with Tomorrow's Hope, an organization that advocates for mental health and addiction.
He tells CTV News he approached the city about opening a temporary shelter for these inmates and was turned down.
He says the only help he's had so far is from Ward 11 Councillor Bill Leduc, who says no idea is off the table right now.
"We're not turning down any ideas at the city, our ears are to the ground and we're listening to all the agencies and we're working very closely with them to find alternatives," said Leduc.
According to the Office of the Solicitor General, the ministry is using longer-term temporary absences to allow for early release of the some of the inmates at the end of their sentence. In a statement, they say the prisoners were assessed to assure they were at low risk to reoffend.
Anyone convicted of serious, violent crimes involving guns, are being left behind bars.
The Central North Correction Centre has released five low-risk offenders near the end of their sentences since Thursday.
The ministry's also giving out temporary absence passes to intermittent offenders who would normally spend weekends in custody and it adds it's working with the courts to reduce the number of people behind bars.
The moves have reduced the population in Northern Region facilities (northeastern Ontario and Thunder Bay) since March 16 from 1,025 to 733 while the population for Ontario facilities has dropped from 8,344 to 6,152.
There was an error in the number of inmates in Ontario's facilities initially reported. The figure 733 is the northern Ontario number and was also initially reported as the new Ontario total by mistake. Province-wide, that number went from 8,344 to 6,152.