Ottawa·Audio

Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre cuts security corners due to staff shortage: union

Severe short-staffing has forced the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre to go into lockdown more times in the first half of this year than for all of 2014, leading burnt-out workers to cut corners when it comes to safety protocols, according to the union representing the jail's front-line workers.

Increased number of lockdowns keeps inmates in cells with less access to showers, cancelled visits

Severe short-staffing has forced the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre to go into lockdown more times in the first half of this year than for all of 2014, leading burnt-out workers to cut corners when it comes to safety protocols, according to the union representing the jail's front-line workers. 

Scott Forde, the vice president of local 411 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, spoke to Alan Neal on CBC Radio's All In A Day to highlight the issues on Canada's 41st annual Prisoners' Justice Day.

Sometimes staff might cut a corner here, cut a corner there just to keep the peace but when they do that they're putting their job on the line.- Union leader Scott Forde

"It's not fun. It's not something we like. It's a lot, lot more work for staff. When you have an inmate lockdown, our workload doubles," Forde said. 

"Staff are burnt by the end of the day and it's an ongoing thing so the burnout is higher and higher."

Lockdowns are not necessarily a reaction to violence.

It can mean inmates being kept in their cells for lengthy periods of time with more limited access to showers and phones, as well as the cancellation of scheduled programs and professional and personal visits.

"So now you have unclean inmates, not able to talk to their families, not able to talk to their lawyers. Obviously, their anger is going to be taken out on the floor staff," Forde said.

"Sometimes staff might cut a corner here, cut a corner there just to keep the peace but when they do that they're putting their job on the line."

Forde said scrimping on safety protocol is particularly alarming because the population of inmates with mental health issues is at an "all time high."

On mobile? Tap here to listen to the whole interview.

The office of Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi told CBC News in a statement that it is aware of the high number of lockdowns.

"We are working to address the root causes of these lockdowns by hiring more officers and continuing to work closely with staff to manage daily staffing requirements to ensure the safe and secure operation of our facilities," the statement said. 

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