“Until those searches are carried out, correctional officers and inmates are going to be at risk from weapons like ceramic knives. If a full institutional search had taken place, the injuries that the officer suffered at Central East could have been avoided.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (29 Aug. 2017) — The President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is calling on Corrections Minister Marie-France Lalonde to intervene with ministry bureaucrats who continue to stall on plans to conduct full institutional searches of the system’s correctional facilities.
Ministry slow to implement safety measures
“Last December, we received ministerial permission to start conducting these searches, which involve a thorough search of the premises and a body scan of every offender,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It’s the only way to root out the weapons, drugs, and other contraband that have been circulating since before full-body scanners were installed.”
In May 2016, then-Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi announced that all correctional institutions would have a full-body scanner by 2018. To date, just under half have been equipped. Previously, jails used metal detectors, which could not perceive objects like ceramic knives.
Officer's injury could have been prevented
On August 21, a correctional officer at Central East Correctional Centre was slashed by an inmate using a ceramic knife. The officer was sent to hospital, where he received 24 stitches.
“The problem is, they didn’t get rid of existing weapons using these scanners after installation,” Thomas explained. “There hasn’t been a single institutional search using the full body scanners. And look what happened."
“Until those searches are carried out, correctional officers and inmates are going to be at risk from weapons like ceramic knives,” said Thomas. “If a full institutional search had taken place, the injuries that the officer suffered at Central East could have been avoided.”
Must rid institutions of dangerous weapons
The OPSEU President pointed out that in December 2016, David Orazietti, Naqvi’s successor as minister, had approved a pilot institutional search at Maplehurst Correctional Complex.
“It was all set to go at the end of January,” Thomas said. “But the Assistant Deputy Minister’s Office quashed it. So we suggested doing the pilot at a smaller institution, like Toronto East [Detention Centre], to save time and money. But the ADMO never gave that the green light, either."
“So here we are, 8 months later, and I understand Central East will finally get a full institutional search. But it took an officer to get savagely attacked before the bureaucrats would let it happen," said Thomas.
“We simply can’t afford to wait until more officers get injured — or worse. For the sake of everyone working or living in our institutions, we need to get rid of these lethal weapons. Right now.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE