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Redesigned program supports correctional officers’ mental health in Ontario

‘Those who work in the correctional system often have a challenging and dangerous job’


March 4, 2020
By Sam Speziale
The Ontario government is working to better prepare correctional officers for the mental stresses of the position. (Tomasz Zajda/Adobe Stock)

The Ontario provincial government launched a refreshed Corrections Foundational Training program last month — a redesigned form of training to prepare future correctional officers for the mental stresses of their job.

The program started Jan. 13 at the Ontario Correctional Services College in Hamilton and is intended to give staff the support they need to pursue corrections as a career, as well as meet the needs of a modern correctional system.

The first group of students are expected to finish the program in early April.

“Those who work in the correctional system often have a challenging and dangerous job,” said Kristy Denette, ministry spokesperson. “It is essential that all correctional officers receive comprehensive, modernized training to do their jobs effectively.”

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Correctional officers are responsible for more than 8,000 inmates being held in correctional facilities across the province — many of whom have complex needs.

Targeted improvements for the revamped program include:

  • an updated curriculum to guide training
  • a blend of in-person and online learning to support adult learning and reduce barriers
  • more job-specific case studies and scenario-based learning to represent diversity within institutions
  • defensive-tactics training with more emphasis on communications and de-escalation, and working with the inmates
  • updated training videos
  • improved mental-health training
  • enhanced training on human rights, with a focus on racism and Indigenous competency knowledge.

Other initiatives include implementing updated tools for working in the correctional system, as well as strategies to avoid occupational injury and stress, said Denette.

This is not the only time corrections officers have received mental health-related support from the provincial government, she said.

In May of last year, Ontario spent $18.3 million to support mental-health needs of first responders. That initiative provided multiple types of first responders with updated tools and training for their jobs.

With the Corrections Foundational Training program in place, future correctional officers as well as other first responders can hope to be more prepared and deal with stressful situations in their job.

“Staff safety and training is very important to me and to our government,” said Ontario solicitor general Sylvia Jones. “This course will teach the skills our frontline officers need to succeed in a modern corrections environment.”

Originally published on Feb. 25, 2020, by fellow Annex Business Media publication, OHS Canada, here.


Sam Speziale is a Centennial College journalism student interning with OHS Canada.