An increased focus on mental health is among the changes in a redesigned training curriculum for new correctional officers, Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General has announced.
The redesigned curriculum, now known as Corrections Foundational Training, replaces the former Correctional Officer Training and Assessment program and includes more emphasis on human rights, mental health, health and safety, and teamwork, the ministry says. The new training program, now in effect, also includes more case studies and scenario-based learning, and an emphasis on communication and de-escalation.
The ministry says these changes are in response to concerns raised by various stakeholders, reports and recent coroner’s inquests.
The auditor general’s report on adult correctional institutions, released in late 2019, concluded correctional institutions are not equipped to deal with a greater proportion of remanded and sentenced individuals with possible mental health issues. It was reported new correctional officers were receiving only three hours of mental health training during their initial eight-week training program. Furthermore, at the time of the audit, 19 provincial institutions weren’t providing any additional ongoing mental health training to correctional officers.
The audit recommended the Ministry of the Solicitor General review and update its initial training on mental health, develop ongoing mental health training, and update initial and ongoing training to include use of force, restraints, managing violent offenders and early detection of mental health issues as recommended in the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The ministry’s announcement didn’t specify how much time will be spent on mental health training for new officers or if ongoing mental health training for active officers will be mandated.