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An open letter to the Corrections Deputy Minister

An open letter to the Corrections Deputy Minister


Corrections MERC Chair Dan Sidsworth warns Deputy Minister Jay Hope that Correctional Officers’ health and safety is at risk due to lack of proper use of force procedures.

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Mr. Jay Hope
Deputy Minister
Correctional Services
25 Grosvenor St George Drew Bldg. 11th Floor
Toronto, Ontario

February 13, 2012

I am writing to you in my capacity of the OPSEU Chair Ministry Employee Relations Committee for the MCSCS – Correctional Services. With the signing of a number of memorandums, we have made some limited progress the last six months towards rebuilding a foundation of improved labour relations. Specifically, the restart of the mediation/arbitration protocol; the expanded hours of presidential leave; and the recognition that Fixed Term members may be suspended with pay if they are out of the workplace pending investigation. Although there have been some difficulties with implementation, we continue to work towards normalizing the working conditions of members in Institutional Services.

This past weekend in Toronto, OPSEU local presidents of Institutional Services met and discussed the Section 22 investigation process and the ongoing Ombudsman Special Report. They also discussed the adverse effect this pending report has had on our working conditions and the heightened level of scrutiny Correctional Officers are now under in conducting our duties.

The newly opened dialog between your office and the bargaining unit representatives of MERC is encouraging. We have discussed and agreed to in principle:

  • A Joint Review of the recommendations of the Ombudsman’s special report and its implementation.
  • A Joint Review of Personnel Protective Equipment and its use/application
  • Updated training on Use of Force changes to include training on report writing, working with mental health inmates and aboriginal inmates. This is planned to start April 2012 and to be completed by December 2012.
  • That MERC will be consulted and have input of the review of CISU, and into any new model prior to implementation of the CISU.

Clear direction from the Ministry is lacking with respect to “use of force” situations that Correctional Officers feel compromise their employment and the safety of everyone involved. We feel the current investigative process that is used to review allegations of excessive force is too lengthy and punitive in nature.

As Correctional Officers we feel vulnerable in our current positions pending the release of the Ombudsman’s report. The uncertainty of this report’s implications has had a negative effect on the workplace, making a difficult job even more difficult. We anticipate that there will be an increase in inmate allegations, which will subsequently result in further investigations.

Until the measures that we have agreed to in principle are in effect, our health and safety is at risk. We do not feel it is safe in using any planned use of force measures, e.g. moving an inmate (who is not posing an immediate threat to himself or another person) from one cell or area to another. Unless it is an emergency situation, such as an altercation on a living unit, we are strongly recommending to members not to use any force.

We will recommend to all members that if “planned” use of force is necessary, members should inform their supervisor of their health and safety concerns and contact a certified Health and Safety representative. We recommend all planned use of force measures only be carried out by Institutional Crisis Intervention Teams (who receive a higher level of training and have access to an increased level of protection) or by management, until such time as the new measures are in place.

Up until now, we have allowed due process to proceed pending the release of the Ombudsman’s Report. However, because of the Ministry’s implementation of new policies and procedures, in addition to the abnormal increase in the number of suspensions involving use of force pending investigation, we are now making these recommendations to the members we represent.

As I have stated, we are encouraged by continued discussions. We are seeking a firm commitment to these four main initiatives and an interim process to achieve these goals.

Originally Signed by

Dan Sidsworth
MERC Chair

c.c. Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

OPSEU Corrections Division members
James Paul, OPSEU JSO
Steve Small, ADM Institutional Services
Marilyn Thomkinson, MCSCS MERC Co-Chair