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Lock Talk:  A Publication of the OPSEU Corrections Campaign

October 20, 2000

Buzz cuts and breakouts
Does Sampson have a clue whatís going on?

This has been a week of startling news.

It started last Friday when it came to light that police had foiled a planned bombing at the Toronto West Detention Centre. The alleged plot to break out an inmate at the facility included the bombing of a nearby elementary school to divert police attention. Had this plan succeeded, the potential for serious injury and death to staff and inmates would have been staggering.

A Thursday Toronto Sun article reported that an inmate awaiting trial at the Toronto (Don) Jail was charged with allegedly using a cell phone to plot his breakout from Millhavenís infamous maximum-security "J" unit. The breakout was reported to involve the use of military weapons, including a tripod-mounted .50 calibre machine gun.

The issue? This inmate is being housed in general population at the Don with full access to telephones and 45 other inmates. Officers at the Toronto Jail have done work refusals over the issue, but it is still not resolved.

As of last week, the Barrie Jail is now a non-smoking institution. It is bubbling with tension that could spill over at any time.

So, what is our ever-vigilant Corrections Minister Rob Sampson doing? He is announcing that a new policy will be implemented forcing inmates to cut their hair when they enter the system.


The Minister says that this grooming policy will make inmates more respectful. He also states that he is following the example of Ohio and Texas.

However, calls to Texas have revealed that the only inmate grooming policy in effect there belongs to the state-run Department of Criminal Justice. Texasí state-run system is equivalent to the Canadian federal system. The Ontario provincial equivalent is the Texas County jail system, and it has no such policy. Even Ohioís policy was deemed not valid, likely due to a lawsuit.

An official with the Texas Dallas County Jail service (responsible for five jails holding 7,000 inmates each) was quoted as saying, "Why on earth would he (Sampson) want to cut their hair?"

We donít know. It would seem that no one else, except for Sampson, knows either.

Anyone who watches Star Trek would be familiar with aliens known as the Borg. The Borg are part human, part machine, and they "assimilate" other creatures and turn them into Borg. Borg are known to be oblivious to their surroundings and consequences of their actions while they focus on one narrow-minded goal.

Sound like anyone we know? Sorry Rob. We will not be assimilated.

It has almost reached the stage that the corrections division should seriously consider holding a ministerial vote of non-confidence. Although it would probably be ignored, a similar vote taken by Guelph police late last year was a factor in the resignation of police chief Lena Bradburn on October 10.

After all, does anyone seriously think that videos, privatization and ill-conceived policies are the way to improve correctional services? Or is it time to get someone who actually knows what theyíre doing at the top?

Itís time to return to earth, Rob. You are boldly going where no sane minister has gone before.

Penetanguishene demo renews hope

"This fight is far from over!"

Those were the words of former Ontario Federation of Labour president and Penetanguishene resident Gord Wilson as he addressed a crowd of over 300 people who turned up for a rally in Penetanguishene last Saturday.

Wilson was one of eight speakers at the rally organized by Sharon Dion, chair of Citizens Against Private Prisons (CAPP).

Other guest speakers were Simcoe federal MP Paul Devilliers, Paula Osmok from the John Howard Society, Penetanguishene Deputy Mayor Doug Leroux, Air Ambulance paramedic Darryl Taylor, Local 517 (MTWDC) president Mort Todd, and Corrections Critics Peter Kormos (NDP) and David Levac (Liberal).

Sharon Dion led the rally off with this simple message to the Government of Ontario: "The people of Walkerton, Kirkland Lake and Penetanguishene will not forget what you have done to us."

MP Devilliers spoke both as a concerned citizen and as a representative of the standing federal justice committee.

"Ideologically, the state has no business privatizing its correctional facilities, be they provincial or federal," he said. "Correctional services are the end result of our judicial system and when you are dealing with peopleís liberties, there is no room for profit."

Deputy Mayor Leroux held out hope that the superjail would not be privatized. "Maybe Sampson will come to his senses and do the right thing," he said.

Gord Wilson urged the town to continue fighting for a public jail.

"You can build it, but you canít run a prison if it doesnít have water," Wilson said. "You canít run a prison if it doesnít have sewage. You canít run a prison if it doesnít have guards reporting to work. And, you canít run a prison with the safety of our community at risk. And thatís the message to you, Rob Sampson, and you better understand it." The crowd roared their approval.

Also at the rally were members of OPSEUís Executive Board, and too many OPSEU locals to list, including members from Local 438 (Rideau CTC), Local 617 (Sudbury Jail) and Local 218 (Burtch CC) who took hours to travel to Penetang.

One of those from Local 218 was president Jeff Jaques. Jaques was especially interested in looking around the town, as Burtch is currently linked to the superjail.

"I would be moving here if the facility was going to be public," Jaques said. "But not if it privatizes."

Nor are many other experienced staff, as Penetanguishene will sadly find out if Rob Sampson doesnít wake up soon.

Looking to move north?

An urgent plea from a member at the Sudbury Jail should be noted if you are a maintenance mechanic who is facing layoff.

A Maintenance Mechanic 2 at the jail has applied for the Voluntary Exit Option, and will take the surplus notice of anyone who would like to fill his position.

Inquiries can be made at your closest Ministry of Corrections regional office.

Resolution watch

Six more resolutions have arrived this week, bringing our anti-privatization municipality list to 120. Our Resolution Warrior Len Mason from Local 737 (Thunder Bay Jail) has sent in the Township of Clearview (near Stayner), the Village of Marmora (east of Peterborough), the City of Nanticoke (south-east of Brantford), the Town of Deseronto, the Township of Tyendinaga (near Shannonville) and the Town of Smooth Rock Falls (east of Kapuskasing).

Great work, Len.

For campaign information, call Don Ford (ext. 442) or Carol Whitehead (ext. 356) at

1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888. e-mail: or

Ontario Public Service Employees Union
100 Lesmill Road, Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8
Original authorized for distribution by Leah Casselman, president.

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Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 100 Lesmill Rd. Toronto, ON M3B 3P8  (416) 443-8888