Montreal, May 7, 2014 — In his spring report tabled yesterday, the Auditor General of Canada warned that inmate population growth will outstrip the current expansion program in Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions within five years, plunging the system into another cycle of overcrowding and violence.
Worse, noted Auditor-General Michael Ferguson, neither CSC nor the federal Public Safety Ministry appear to have a plan to deal with the coming population crunch in Canadian prisons.
The report underlined many of the concerns that the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) has been expressing for years.
“We have tried to have a dialogue about the changes taking place in our penitentiaries since the adoption of several ‘tough-on-crime’ laws, but the Harper government is refusing to hear from the people who work on the front lines of the system,” observed UCCO-SACC-CSN National President Kevin Grabowsky.
The consequences of this refusal to consult are now playing out in Canadian prisons. As the Auditor General emphasized, overcrowding and double-bunking combined with budget cuts have produced “increased levels of tension, aggression, and violence.”
“I’ve worked for 35 years at CSC, but never have I seen the level or intensity of violence that we are experiencing now,” said Mr. Grabowsky. “This is a huge risk for our members’ safety, but also for the Canadian public. We don’t have the resources or the infrastructure to ensure inmates are properly rehabilitated now, and almost all of them will one day be back in our neighbourhoods.”
The recent expansion of several institutions to deal with higher inmate population levels was not accompanied by increased capacity or funding for health-care, segregation units or rehabilitation programming.
“More and more inmates face pressure to join criminal gangs, often as a way to protect themselves from intimidation or attacks,” added the union president. “But they don’t stop being gang members once they are released. The public will bear the brunt of this reality.”
Finally, Mr. Grabowsky called on recently appointed Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney to accept the union’s invitation for a meeting to establish a dialogue and to ensure proper resources are in place to ensure a safer and more successful penitentiary system.