Prison guard protest outside PM’s Calgary office
Published Saturday, September 15, 2012 6:09PM MDT
Correctional officers say they're throwing the door open on the deteriorating work conditions in Canada's prisons, but the federal government say their cross country tour is nothing more than a loud publicity stunt.
Saturday's march on Stephen Harper's Calgary constituency office could be described as loud, angry and crowded. For the prison guards taking part in the march, the conditions closely resemble the current state of Canada's 52 federal prisons.
“The three major topics that people are talking to me about is overcrowding, double bunking and population management,” says Pierre Mallette, the president of the Union of Canadian Correction Officers (UCCO).
Double bunking, the act of putting two inmates in a cell built for one, is on the rise according to the union. It says double bunking agitates inmates and puts workers in a dangerous situation. John Turner is one of those guards at Ontario's Collins Bay Institution.
“We had a situation where a female guard got punched in the face numerous times by a male inmate,” says Turner. “It wasn't provoked, it was just out of the blue.”
“She's got to explain to her young little kid, you know, mommy got beat up at work.”
The marching workers say they don't understand how Canada's crime rate is going down while crowding in prisons is going up.
In a statement to CTV, the office of Vic Toews says the public safety minister is more than willing to sit down with union representatives to discuss their concerns.
"The big union bosses seem to prefer political stunts over practical dialogue. Since the day that the closures of Kingston and Leclerc, they have yet to request to meet."
The union says it has made that request.
Now, members are knocking on doors in Calgary and across Canada hoping to convince Canadians that planned prison closures in the country will have nation wide repercussions.
“They have to farm those inmates out,” says Kevin Grabowsky, regional president of the UCCO. “For us in the prairies, we're certainly overcrowded now, and the amount of gang inmates and the different types of gangs that we have, it's just getting worse and worse.”
There are 7400 correctional officers working in federal prisons in Canada. At Saturday's demonstration, the federal correctional officers received support from the Alberta Union of Public Employees as members of Alberta's Provincial Correctional Institutes took part in the march.