Mr. Robert Runciman
Dear Mr. Runciman,
I am writing to your because the safety of my members in Probation and Parole Services in Ontario is in jeopardy. Extreme caseloads and a lack of community resources are putting our members at risk.
Early yesterday morning two probation officers, members of OPSEU Local 551 were injured during an assault from a client at the Queensway Probation office. They required hospital treatment for their injuries. This is not an isolated incident; its the latest in a series of violent attacks across the province on probation and parole officers by their clients. Officers have been attacked by clients with knives and assaulted. They and members of their families have received death threats.
The officers are dealing with exactly the same clientele as the jails: sex offenders, substance abusers, mental health cases and high risk assault offenders. Unlike correctional officers, they lack the power to lock down a violent client and they have no physical protection.
You probably are aware that 85 per cent of the correctional clientele are in the community not the jails. Your government must take responsibility for ensuring that this 85 per cent has the treatment it needs. When troubled people cannot access the programs they require, they react in unpredictable ways. Our members your employees are the target of this volatile behaviour.
Some of the solutions are beyond the scope of your ministry community programs for mental health, substance abuse and addictions, homelessness, and more. But many of the solutions are directly your responsibility.
We have raised the need for more officers, proper training and a safety audit for all probation offices in union-management meetings for many years but our concerns have been ignored. Are you waiting to attend a funeral of one of your employees before you act? Im not waiting until it happens to one of my members.
I ask you to convene an emergency meeting of the ministry EERC, to deal with these matters now before its too late. I give you my commitment that I will attend, and ask that you also be there and let us make a serious effort to straighten out this mess now.
I look forward to your prompt response.