MONTREAL, Aug. 27, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - In the Québec segment of its Presidents' Tour 2012, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) has been highlighting the problems encountered in the province's federal penitentiaries. The union expressed concern over hazards related to correctional officers' security and safety, overcrowding in the institutions, cuts to programs designed for inmates and the Conservative government's lack of vision.
Closure of the Leclerc penitentiary
Closing the Leclerc penitentiary in Laval (a medium-security penitentiary), as announced this spring by the Conservative government, will have many repercussions. Although the closure has not yet been completed, it has already entailed overcrowding in Québec's institutions. "The new construction isn't even finished and inmate transfers have begun," decried the National President of UCCO-SACC-CSN, Pierre Mallette. "There are 500 fewer cells, and soon there won't be any room left in Québec penitentiaries. There's no option but to resort to double-bunking, which is dangerous for inmates and for correctional officers."
In addition, the Leclerc institution houses a laundry, which is the largest employer of inmates in the country. "We still don't know if this laundry will be closed or moved elsewhere," Pierre Mallette reported. "Leaving inmates without work could have catastrophic effects, given that when they're busy working they don't have time to talk about their past exploits, plan their next moves and commit others."
In regard to the Archambault institution in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, UCCO-SACC-CSN has for many years now criticized the fact that the medium- and maximum-security mental health unit (CRSM) is set up in an institution that is not equipped for a clientele with mental health disorders. Everywhere else in the country, all mental health units of this kind are built to address that particular clientele. Yet this unit is set up in an old cell block and is no longer safe or secure, in part because of a spectacular increase in the number of inmates who have mental disorders. "We are witnessing a rising number of incidents and intimidation among inmates, and if nothing is done, the situation will only get worse," warned Pierre Dumont, UCCO-SACC-CSN's Québec Regional President.
Inmates with restricted mobility
In Laval, an increasingly aging population of inmates is coming into the Montée St-François minimum security institution. Correctional officers have to oversee and manage inmates with restricted mobility by helping them move about or get into their wheel chairs. "If a fire broke out in the middle of the night, it would be impossible for correctional officers to ensure the inmates' safety or their own. The required number of correctional officers is not high enough in minimum security penitentiaries to properly address the situation," stated Pierre Dumont.
Following the announcement of two institutions closing in Ontario, in increasing number of transfers of inmates is occurring between provinces. Transfer applications are flooding into Québec, particularly at the Port-Cartier institution. Unfortunately, however, not all correctional officers are fluent in English and there are situations where officers and inmates don't understand each other properly. That creates frustration for both parties.
The same problem arises at the women's institution in Joliette. There, if a female correctional officer is attacked by one or more French-speaking inmates, it is very difficult to transfer the inmates as they won't be entitled to services in French anywhere else in Canada. The penitentiary administration will assign the correctional officer to other duties rather than transfer the inmate.
The Presidents' Tour 2012
After visiting the Atlantic region, the Presidents' Tour 2012 met with correctional officers in the Port-Cartier, Drummond, Donnacona and Cowansville institutions. Over the next few days, the tour will make stops in Joliette, Ste-Anne-des-Plaines and La Macaza before heading on to Ontario toward the end of the week. It is making its way across Canada to visit its members in the country's 52 penitentiaries.
The aim of the Presidents' Tour is to inform correctional officers of the current state of negotiations with the Treasury Board and Correctional Service Canada, as well as to talk about problems encountered in penitentiaries throughout the country.
UCCO-SACC-CSN represents 7,400 correctional officers working in Canada's 52 federal penitentiaries.
SOURCE: UNION OF CANADIAN CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS (UCCO-SACC-CSN)
For further information:
Source: Union of Canadian Correctional Officers - Syndicat des agents correctionnels du Canada (UCCO-SACC-CSN)
Information: Noémi Desrochers, CSN Communications Department
Cell: 514 216-1825; office: 514 598-2162.