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Correctional officers demonstrate at Stony Mountain Institution during visit by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

(Winnipeg—November 12, 2010) In the wake of a scabies outbreak at Stony Mountain Institution that is contributing yet another threat to their health and safety, federal correctional officers are demonstrating outside the Winnipeg-area penitentiary to protest Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ unwillingness to discuss this and other urgent issues with their union.

Minister Toews is visiting the institution this morning. Since last January, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) has repeatedly requested meetings with Toews to address double-bunking, new prison construction design and health and safety issues.

“Mr. Toews should remember that the lives of his employees are put at risk when decisions and choices are made that do not include their perspective and experience,” said Kevin Grabowsky, the Prairies Regional President for UCCO-SACC-CSN. “Correctional officers should be consulted, not ignored.”

Mr. Grabowsky said he is particularly concerned over comments that Mr. Toews made last spring, when he called double bunking “not a big deal.”

“The minister can stack as many inmates in a cell as he wants, but it’s always a correctional officer who has to open the door to that cell and deal with what comes out,” said Mr. Grabowsky. “Our members are the ones who ultimately pay the price.”

The union has sent three letters – in January, May and September – requesting meetings with Mr. Toews. The first two were completely ignored, while the third, which was hand-delivered during a constituency event in Steinbach, MB, led to an email exchange with a ministerial aide, but no further response since early October.

A correctional officer at Stony Mountain Institution contracted scabies last week after unknowingly searching a cell, including the mattress, of an inmate who health care staff knew to be suffering from the skin infection. The officer was subsequently hospitalized after an allergic reaction to medical treatment. There are four more inmates at the medium-security prison with suspected or confirmed cases of scabies.
For more information, contact Lyle Stewart at 514 796-2066.

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