Auditor’s report an insult to corrections
The report released on Dec. 8, 2008 by
Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter had a lot to say about how corrections
are run in this province. And for the correctional officers who are on the
front lines day in and day out, a lot of the report was extremely insulting.
McCarter went into great detail on the use
of sick time by correctional officers, or more specifically, the abuse of
sick time. How did McCarter conclude that sick time was being abused?
Because senior Ministry officials and managers told him so. Did he bother to
ask these officials what front-line managers sick time is like? If so, he
seemed to leave that out of his findings.
The report generated a lot of media
activity, and reporters were lining up to “get the goods” on these sick-time
abusing correctional officers. However, they quickly calmed down after they
were told a few corrections facts of life.
For over 10 years, OPSEU has been telling
the Ministry that working conditions and overcrowding in our facilities were
unbearable. Stress levels were bad and growing worse. Staff are continuously
being assaulted; inmates are assaulting each other. Mentally ill inmates are
warehoused in jails when they should be in hospitals. Judges give prisoners
“3 for 1” credit for time served due to bad jail conditions. And most of the
problem was due to there not being enough beds in the system as well as high
inmate to staff ratios, where the norm is 20 to 35 inmates per officer.
How has the Ministry and the government
responded? By removing even more beds from the system. Now, somehow they
seem shocked that the problems are getting worse, problems they created
Eddy Almeida, Corrections MERC Chair, did
media interviews the day the report was released. He is disgusted and
disappointed with how his members are being portrayed and being
“We have been fighting bad working
conditions for as long as I can remember,” Almeida said. “Our facilities are
always overcrowded; a fact the Auditor General makes quite clear. But all
the Ministry does is what the Ministry does best…blame the very workers who
hold the system together with little to no support. Our members walk into
their facilities with the knowledge that there is a potential to be
attacked. They shouldn’t have to expect attacks from the very public
officials that represent the people correctional officers keep safe.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says
that correctional officers at the very least deserve an apology.
“The Minister should apologize to the
officers for allowing the conditions in the jail to fester for so long, and
thank each and every one of them for the remarkable job they do 24 hours a
day,” Thomas said. “There are very few people in this province who would
willingly do a correctional officers job. The Ministry and the public are in
these officers’ debt.”
Both Thomas and Almeida encourage the local
executives and members to call their MPPs and other public officials and
invite them to come and spend some time with the front-line workers. “Let
them see for themselves what is happening behind the walls,” Almeida said.
“If they have an understanding of what officers must deal with each and
every day, then maybe they will have a better appreciation and respect for
the difficult services our members provide for the public.”
Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 100 Lesmill Road,
Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8
Original authorized for distribution by Warren (Smokey)
Thomas, president and Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, MCSCS MERC Chair.