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Correctional officers denounce move as hasty, secretive and dangerous

(MONTREAL — April 19, 2012) The union representing Canada’s 7,500 correctional officers is warning that the closing of three federal penitentiaries creates a risk for staff and the public.

The federal government announced today that, at the end of September 2013, it would close Kingston Penitentiary, the Regional Treatment Centre (also in Kingston), and Leclerc Institution in Laval, Quebec. Because of the nature of the inmates housed in these three institutions, however, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) foresees significant risks and disruptions to the Correctional Service.

“We’re talking about 900 of Canada’s most dangerous inmates: serial killers, organized crime figures, and people with severe mental-health problems,” observed UCCO-SACC-CSN National President Pierre Mallette. “This kind of inmate population movement will create organizational and security nightmares.”

Mr. Mallette deplored the fact that neither the federal Public Safety Ministry nor Correctional Service Canada made the effort to consult its frontline staff about the impacts of hastily closing three key institutions in response to recent budget cutbacks.

“We have to wonder about the long-term direction of the Correctional Service,” said Pierre Mallette. “We recently experienced very rapid expansion at CSC. Yesterday it was full steam ahead and now we are slamming on the brakes. Where is the analysis? Where is the research showing the future needs of the service? Why is there such disorganization? We cannot run a network of 52 penitentiaries in such an improvised manner.”

Jason Godin, the Ontario regional president for UCCO-SACC-CSN, said that Kingston Penitentiary continues to serve its purpose. To empty the maximum-security institution in a scant 18 months is a very risky venture when the infrastructure to house its high-risk population is not presently in place.

“About three-quarters of the population at KP is already segregated because this is a very violent group of inmates. You can’t put them just anywhere, and we won’t have enough maximum-security cells in 18 months to house them in Ontario. So that means they or other inmates will be double-bunked. And that means more attacks on staff and more violence among inmates,” said Mr. Godin.

Likewise, the Regional Treatment Centre in Kingston houses a population with severe mental-health issues that cannot be easily absorbed into other institutions, Mr. Godin noted.

In Quebec, Leclerc Institution is a high medium-security facility where many high-profile organized-crime figures are presently serving their sentences.
“It is true that there is now or will soon be some extra capacity at other institutions in Quebec,” observed the UCCO-SACC-CSN regional president, Pierre Dumont. “But what will be the impact on the inmate population from Bill C-10, which is about to take effect?

How much will it cost to close an institution that is built to current operational standards?

Are we sure we will not need this facility in a couple years or are we throwing away a public investment at what will eventually be a huge cost to taxpayers?”

For Pierre Mallette, these and other budget-reduction measures are short-sighted and will produce unforeseen costs for CSC and the Canadian government: “Where is the calm, rational and informed leadership that knows where we are going and bases its decisions on a long-term vision supported by transparent, verifiable research?

Where is the plan?”

UCCO-SACC-CSN will soon be consulting its membership – something that CSC has conspicuously failed to do – on future actions in the face of the announced closings. But Pierre Mallette warns the union will not stand idly by as the union’s members are put at risk.

“CSC and the government will find this union in its way if it continues along this road,” he said.

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