The union representing provincial correctional officers is prepared to work with Ontario’s ombudsman in his investigation of the complaints procedure inside jails with the goal of addressing the serious health and safety issues of those who work inside the facilities.
“The ombudsman is fully aware of the grave health and safety dangers that exist inside our jails and which are frequently directed against correctional officers,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents more than 5,000 staff inside the province’s jails.
“We are prepared to cooperate with Andre Marin’s investigation. We anticipate that his report will also reflect the many dangerous health and safety threats that our members face on a daily basis. The outcome of his investigation will be a glass half-filled if he neglects to report on health and safety issues we have brought to the attention of his office for many years.”
The ombudsman’s office announced on Tuesday that it would launch an investigation into alleged “excessive force” used by jail guards against inmates in some provincial facilities and the complaints’ procedure used by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to follow up on those reports.
Dan Sidsworth, head of the corrections division of OPSEU, said the ombudsman’s investigation must take into account a range of ancillary issues affecting conditions that correctional officers face each day, including overcrowding, cutbacks in inmate programs, the ratio of prisoners to guards, the personal protection equipment that officers are prohibited from possessing inside the facilities, a freeze on new hiring, and long-term health concerns like post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Unfortunately, the ombudsman has refused to address these issues that we’ve brought to the attention of his office for many years,” said Sidsworth. “It’s only fair and just that if he looks into the complaints of prisoners, he take the same investigative approach that we’ve been calling for on behalf of our members for some time now,” said Sidsworth, referring to “systemic problems” that the union has raised with the ministry – including video surveillance records, occurrence log books and reports of injuries and medical files on injuries sustained by correctional officers – but for which it seldom receives satisfactory follow-up information.
Sidsworth said the union would be contacting Marin’s office shortly to indicate its willingness to participate in the investigation of inmate complaints.
Chair, OPSEU Corrections
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