A new expansion and facility at the Kenora District Jail is one step closer to opening, and the Ontario government is working to find the staff to operate it.

The province announced the hiring of 98 new correctional officer graduates last week, as part of a $500 million over five years investment to increase front-line staff in adult correctional service facilities.

Ontario says 26 of those graduates will work in the north, split between Kenora, Fort Frances, Monteith, Sudbury, Algoma and two facilities in Thunder Bay.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General has confirmed that two graduates will be coming to Kenora. 

“The Kenora Jail’s had a significant build for more appropriate cell ranges, capacity and life-skill building. And we want to be ready on all fronts here,” said Kenora – Rainy River MPP, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development, Greg Rickford, in an interview with the Q Morning Show.

Rickford notes that the training program offered by Mohawk College has been brought to the area to help train staff closer to home.

“Training local people to work was difficult. They had to go to southern Ontario. So, we brought some of that training out to Seven Generations, which reduced the cost and inconvenience associated with going somewhere else for the training,” Rickford explains.

And as Rickford notes, the announcement comes as the Kenora District Jail gets closer to the grand opening of its new expansion.

Announced back in 2020 by Rickford and Sylvia Jones, the new jail aims to address overcrowding and a lack of culturally-appropriate spaces at the Kenora Jail.

The addition will hold 50 male inmates, separated into two 25-bed celled living units. The facility will be host to life-skill building programming, literacy and development programs and social services – which all aim to support a safe reintegration to the community.

“This will improve the opportunity for offenders to be equipped with a little bit more readiness for leaving the facility, and that expansion will require new correctional officers,” adds Rickford. “We’ll be ready from a human resources perspective to open that, full stop.”

Jail staff, their families and retirees are being invited down to check out the new building on Wednesday. There’s been no announcement on when the facility will officially open.