KAWARTHA LAKES-The Central East Correctional Centre is a violent place. Kawartha 411 has learned there were 818 criminal incidents investigated at the jail in 2017. The majority of the cases were for assaults with 463 incidents reported.
“It is a lot, it’s been increasing every year” Chris Butsch, Local 368 Union President told Kawartha 411. “Its hard for people to deal with even on the inside, even though we are accustomed to all these things, threats and assaults, it’s becoming so rampant that how do you defend yourself?”
The way the system works right now it’s the victims of assault who are paying the price according to the union. “Right now it seems like the ministry is segregating the victims of the assault, including offenders rather than the predators, we just don’t have the space.” Butsch says. “Typically if an offender assaults an inmate in the institution, the person who was assaulted says, I want to go to segregation for my safety, and then there’s no room for the actual person who did the assaulting to move anywhere, so they stay on the unit to do it again to somebody else, victimizing another person.”
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says they have processes in place and staff are trained to deal with these situations. “The safety and security of inmates and staff is the ministry’s top priority.” Andrew Morrison, Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections told Kawartha 411. “All correctional officers receive comprehensive and ongoing training to help them handle a variety of different situations safely. Correctional facilities across Ontario are equipped to manage risks and the ministry has policies and procedures in place for active management of inmates and staff awareness.”
But the union says assaults in institutions need to be taken more seriously. “There’s no sentencing behind it where we say, this is a serious issue, you’re going to do some serious extra time for this.” Butsch remarks. “At the moment you might get a couple days extra for assaulting somebody but, there has to be something more serious in place as a consequence.”
The majority of the assaults are inmate on inmate but there are a number of assaults on staff too. “Its hard to identify that actual number because the employer is supposed to notify the union for every assault on staff so we can assist the staff, but they don’t always report it to us.”Butsch says. “We had a staff member assaulted and choked just last week by an inmate who had a plan to assault an officer, a female officer. It’s a lot of trauma not just physically but mentally as well, we need more supports to help our officers deal with this type of thing.” Police are investigating and the officer is still off work.
The trends seem to indicate an increase in assaults of female correctional officers. In December a female CO was assaulted and ended up with a broken nose. “It’s more that the inmate population doesn’t really give a shit if you are female.” Butsch says. “It used to be the inmate code back in the day that you don’t put your hands on a female officer, now the way it is today nobody cares if you are male or female, its just another notch in your belt.”
The Kawartha Lakes Police Service has three full time officers working out of the Lindsay jail who are paid by the province. In addition to assaults officers investigated 61 drug incidents, 71 cases of mischief and 22 weapons incidents. “The detection and prevention of contraband in provincial correctional facilities is ongoing, and complex.” Morrison says. “Contraband is an issue in jails across the country, and around the world. Despite all of the preventative measure that are in place, some contraband continues to enter correctional facilities. Correctional staff are trained to be vigilant, and conduct regular and thorough searches for contraband of both inmates and facilities.” The Central East Correctional Centre recently had a full body scanner installed and Butsch thinks that’s helped reduce the number of drugs and weapons charges.
The Lindsay jail has a capacity of about 1100 inmates and two thirds of them are on remand (awaiting trial) according to the union. Inmates on remand are a real problem for the system. “For sentenced offenders there’s programming going on (addictions counsellors, rehab officers)but for remanded offenders there’s nothing. 2/3 of our population is remanded, who are just being warehoused, we are warehousing people is what we are doing” Not only is there limited programming in place for inmates on remand there’s also limited consequences for infractions while in jail. “As a sentenced offender if you assault someone you could lose good time but a remand offender there’s nothing to take away from you.”Butsch explains.
“The women and men that work in the provincial correctional system have a challenging job, with a clientele that has complex needs.” Morrison says.
Butsch says they want the ministry to take an in depth look at the rehabilitation programs offered in the jail and the staff required to deliver the programs. “When we talk about crisis in corrections we also talk about staffing models. Our staffing model has never been revisited since 2003 for all our programming departments,” according to Butsch. “We need a staffing model for our nurses our social workers, our rehab officers our addictions counsellors, but nobody is interested in looking at that model with us to go here’s what we need to provide services to the offenders.” And he wants to be part of the discussion on any potential changes. “I want them to talk to our front line staff. Stop making decisions without even knowing if you have the infrastructure in place to do it. Its great to have these grandiose decisions up top but if you can’t make it happen on the front lines you’ve failed.”
“The ministry is committed to working with frontline staff to ensure it’s correctional facilities are secure and safe.” says Morrison.
Butsch and some of the counsellors and other professionals from the jail will be meeting with Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Brock MPP Laurie Scott in Lindsay on Thursday to discuss the “crisis in corrections.”
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