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Union calls news reports of ‘prison beatings’ sensationalistic

The union representing Ontario"s front-line correctional officers says that news stories showing videos of inmates being assaulted by staff is sensationalistic and depicts events that have already been dealt with by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said that the Ontario Ombudsman issued a report last June where he addressed these incidents, and the union is working with the Ministry on the recommendations in that report.

"The videos obtained by CBC and Radio-Canada are several years old, and any staff who were found to have acted improperly have been disciplined, fired and/or criminally charged," Thomas said. "The Ombudsman himself found that these were isolated incidents, and there was no indication of a systemic problem with excessive force in our correctional facilities."

Dan Sidsworth, elected provincial chair for correctional officers, rejects the idea that a call to "blanket" institutions with video surveillance cameras will be a cure-all to prevent violence in the facilities.

"We continue to demand that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services address the chronic overcrowding, understaffing, lack of proper policies and procedures and inadequate safety equipment in our facilities," Sidsworth said. "Jails are violent places. The number of inmate-on-staff assaults is in the hundreds each year, and there are thousands of inmate-on-inmate assaults each year, and both are rising. All cameras can do are record incidents. We want the skills, the proper number of staff and the equipment to prevent them from happening in the first place."

Thomas reiterated his words last June about the conditions correctional officers face on a daily basis.

"Our correctional officers risk their lives every day to maintain order in these facilities," Thomas said. "With hundreds of our members being assaulted each year, it"s a work environment most people cannot begin to comprehend. Give our officers the tools and training to do their jobs properly."

More information:

Warren (Smokey) Thomas 416-443-8888

Dan Sidsworth 905-691-7955