LONDON – Delays in getting inmates from Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre to local courts can be blamed directly on government inaction on overcrowded facilities, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says that his members can no longer break rules or ignore safety standards just so inmates can get to court on time.
“For years, the Ministry has been packing more and more inmates into too little space, and expecting the staff to cope with the extra work it takes to deal with this,” Thomas said. “As a result, our members have had to ignore rules and cut corners just to do their jobs. A maximum-security facility is the last place this should happen.”
OPSEU Corrections Division Chair Eddy Almeida says that members must place safety first inside the facilities.
“In Corrections, when safety rules are ignored there is a huge potential for disaster,” Almeida said. “Our members should never sacrifice safety for the sake of beating a clock. The court system has to realize that the problem lies with the Ministry, not our members.”
Thomas says his union has been ready for months to work with the employer to come up with solution, but the Ministry has shown little interest so far.
“Until we can come up with a reasonable plan to deal with overcrowding and the associated problems, our members have to protect themselves and the public,” Thomas said. “They simply cannot breach security and take risks because the Ministry won’t deal with the root causes of the problem. We sympathize with the courts, but judges must deal with the Ministry at the decision-making level. Our members absolutely shouldn’t be punished for following the Ministry’s own rules.”