(LONDON) – Despite an agreement between management and employees at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre on a general release of inmates following a week of violent disturbances and weapon searches, conditions inside the facility remain tense and it’s time for the minister responsible to act, says the union representing correctional officers.
“The situation appears to be under control for now but we are very concerned we could see this weekend a repeat of the violence and threats against our members that started during the lockdown last week,” said Dan Sidsworth, who represents provincial correctional officers with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union including more than 260 correctional officers and staff who work at the London area provincial jail.
“We’re just managing to keep a lid on a pot of water that’s simmering beneath the boiling point,” Sidsworth added.
Correctional officers and staff represented by OPSEU Local 108 and management at EMDC reached an agreement Thursday that will see a gradual release of inmates allowing them to shower and circulate inside the facility. Negotiators for Local 108 had rejected an earlier plan that would have released all inmates from their cells simultaneously.
But the president of OPSEU said the labour-management agreement at EMDC is a band-aid measure that fails to address the underlying causes of inmate unrest.
“By now it must be evident to Madelaine Meilleur that you can’t cram 450 inmates into a facility designed for 150 and not expect serious and dangerous problems to eventually erupt,” said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas, referring to the minister of community safety and correctional services for the province.
He said problems of overcrowding, understaffing and threats of disturbances are commonplace in correctional facilities across Ontario.
“This week it was EMDC; where will the next outbreak of violence take place?” said Thomas. “The problems evident in correctional services are endemic in provincial facilities everywhere. The lack of action from Queen’s Park on these issues is only an invitation for the situation to explode again – either at EMDC or for certain somewhere else.”
OPSEU Community Safety & Correctional Services