UCCO-SACC-CSN must be consulted on Sampson panel's ambitious vision for correctional reform - Federal correctional officers support proposals to improve security, rehabilitation



    MONTREAL, Dec. 13 /CNW Telbec/ - The sweeping overhaul of the federal
prison system recommended in the report of the Correctional Service Canada
Review Panel, which was released today, will require close collaboration with
correctional officers.
    In A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety, former Ontario Corrections
Minister Rob Sampson and his fellow panellists have produced a series of
recommendations that the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers
(UCCO-SACC-CSN) broadly supports, with important exceptions.
    "The panel is to be commended for the massive job they accomplished in
only six months," said UCCO-SACC-CSN National President Pierre Mallette. "They
have identified many weaknesses in our penitentiary system and, instead of
policy band aids, have proposed a far more strenuous exercise to assure the
continued safety of the public, staff and inmates."
    UCCO-SACC-CSN's executive committee is gratified to see many of its
concerns and propositions (outlined in the union's brief, "Rewards and
Consequences," available at www.uccosacc.csn.qc.ca) reflected in the final
report. The panel's proposals will need to be fleshed out, however, and
UCCO-SACC-CSN believes the expertise of frontline staff will be indispensable
in helping elaborate their scope and definition.
    A central focus of the report is a plan to deal with the growing strength
of violent, race-based prison gangs, and the drug traffic their power depends
on.
    "Correctional officers will do everything they can to help the government
implement effective strategies to stem the prison drug trade," said Mr.
Mallette. "We also share the panel's view that legislation governing the
Correctional Service should be amended to make inmates accountable for their
actions, and, at the same time, to better support and protect an inmate's
efforts to follow his or her correctional plan."
    Among the panel's 109 recommendations are two that would immediately make
a correctional officer's job safer, including a call "to require an offender
to provide a blood sample for testing after an incident that could have placed
the staff member's health at risk because of the transmission of bodily
fluid." In addition, the panel suggested that "the current voluntary testing
of offenders at entry into the system for infectious diseases be made
mandatory."
    "We applaud the panel for these recommendations, which will help us deal
with the increasing use of organic fluids to assault or intimidate prison
staff," said Mr. Mallette. "Someone has finally recognized the reality of high
rates of infectious and contagious diseases in our institutions."
    UCCO-SACC-CSN is less enthusiastic about the panel's view of the
federally sentenced women (FSW) sector of CSC. As vividly illustrated by
recent events at a number of institutions for women, a lack of consistently
applied regulations has resulted in a poorly administered system that puts
staff and inmates needlessly at risk. Both staff and inmates in the FSW sector
merit as much protection from violence, injury and death as their counterparts
in CSC's institutions for men. As such, the union strongly opposes the panel's
suggestion to remove power over security in FSW institutions from the
responsibility of CSC's five regional deputy commissioners.
    In general, the union feels consistency in the application of
Commissioner's Directives is a necessary step to improving the management of
all federal institutions, especially since Canada's correctional facilities
are entering a new, more violent and more challenging era.
    "Disease, technologically sophisticated organized crime groups and a
restriction on deterrents in a rights-based environment mean correctional
officers must also be better trained, equipped and be recruited according to
higher standards. In order to respond to these challenges and a likely
increase in the prison population due to new restrictions on parole and
tougher sentencing protocols, CSC must first and foremost ensure it has the
staff needed to manage this population," said Mr. Mallette.
    "Finally, correctional officers need to work in well-designed
institutions that are better able to contain and separate violent inmates.
Current construction projects must be put on hold and closely reviewed to
ensure they respond to the criteria in this report."
    UCCO-SACC-CSN will be requesting a meeting with Public Safety Minister
Stockwell Day to discuss the panel's report and the government's plans to
implement its recommendations.




For further information:

For further information: Lyle Stewart, CSN communications service, (514)
796-2066


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