Prison guards picket

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Doug White

SPRINGHILL – Corrections officers at Springhill Institution held what they called an ‘information picket’ Wednesday to protest management at the facility. They contend administrators are too eager to find fault with corrections officers.

“Overzealous managers are poisoning the workplace with frivolous disciplinary procedures,” claimed a written statement the union prepared.

The result is a more stressful work environment and increased danger to the public, according to Doug White, Atlantic regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCOO).

“Springhill leads the region for staff assaults,” said White.

The risk of being attacked by inmates is part of the job.

“We accept that,” said White.

What he and his fellow union members find unacceptable, though, is an employee disciplinary system they claim doesn’t have sufficient independence from management.

White detailed a recent incident in which two of his members were disciplined. The same manager that launched the complaint also heard the testimony of the employees and decided their punishment, he alleged. When a grievance was launched, the same official was the first level of contact, said the union official.

Perhaps compounding the dissatisfaction, White contended the incident in question shouldn’t have resulted in disciplinary action in the first place. He described a scenario where officers used their judgment to determine a secure vehicle should be used to transport a prisoner (they had previously been told not to use the vehicle, according to White, however that was before their superior knew a prisoner would need to be moved).

White gave another description – an incident that occurred the morning of the protest: an officer refused to transport a prisoner to a (non-emergency) doctor’s appointment because of poor driving conditions and, as a result, was threatened with disciplinary action.

The regional president said Springhill has had more disciplinary investigations in recent years than all the other penitentiaries in the Atlantic region combined.

An out-of-province union official, Lyle Stewart, said about 75 people attended the picket, which began at 7 a.m. but then moved to the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre around 9 a.m. due to weather conditions. Stewart said the rally, which would run through into the evening, would build solidarity. Representatives from all five institutions were in attendance.

Stewart said an environment in which officers are worried about being brought up on minor infractions is one in which officers may question their own judgment and hesitate before acting – a hesitation that may put people at risk.

The Correctional Service of Canada declined to comment.

esparling@amherstdaily.com

Twitter: @ADNsparling

Organizations: Springhill Institution, Correctional Service of Canada

Geographic location: Atlantic

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Recent comments

  • Reason
    March 22, 2013 - 08:54

    I must say if I were a corrections officer or a member of this union, I'd be quite upset about this story! It makes you look like a bad joke. Lets get to the nuts and bolts of the complaint... Two officers were told not to do something by their manager, they did it anyway, they were disciplined. Honestly what other outcome would any rational person expect. As for driving conditions this week, perfect by no means, too dangerous to travel, get serious. Tell that to all the people who were happily travelling, shopping, working, etc... Perhaps the union and corrections officers have actual grievances. That would be a shame and should be addressed immediately. This is an important stressful job. That isn't the takeaway for the public from this story. I hesitate to point out what the public perception of the Springhill employees and their union is going to be since some might find it incendiary.

  • Mr C.
    March 21, 2013 - 13:43

    For one thing this is a male population prison, women have no business working there as guards let alone supervisors. This just proves that with the system being political correct and hiring women and then promoting them when they have not gained experience and knowledge. Many good officers are being passed over to be politically correct. Most of these officers came to work at the institution not because of the lack of work but because they had pride in their work. For managers/supervisors to undermine an officer in front of inmates takes away their creditibility. Inmates thrive and expect this constant interference. Remember ALL inmates that come to this institution commit many crimes before they are sentenced to Federal time, exception is murder. I was a former guard and I know what I am talking about. When I worked in Dorchester the supervisors NEVER undermined your authority in front of an inmate. The top management team in Springhill must start supervising the supervisors and discipline them if necessary. It is important that there is good morale in an enviroment like this. Although there are problem officers and one can expect that with over 200 in a place such as this. But deal with them and show respect to all officers that have earned it , don't be too judgemental and I can assure you it will go along ways. Asking their opinions and allowing for their feedback can bring higher morale.

  • Correctional Officer's Concerned Family
    March 21, 2013 - 12:04

    What has been going on at SI by management has been blatant abuse of power and utter disregard for the safety of the officers that they employ and all so that the poor prisoners don't get upset. Management is treating the prisoners like the screaming kid at the grocery store and giving them all the candy they want just that they will stop screaming. They are in jail. They are in federal prison which means that what they did incurred a 2 or more year sentence. Management has been presented with credible threats against the officers' safety and they have purposely chosen to ignore the threats which have been proven to be credible. These managers are putting my husban'd life at risk. They are putting my children's father's life at risk and they are putting my inlaws son's life at risk and they KNOW it yet they are continuing to do it! Something has to change and management at SI needs to stop sticking their chest out and giving candy to screaming babies and start taking responsibility and being accountable and stop taking the easy way out. Because, someday, by taking the easy way out, one or more of our loved ones who wotk there could very easily be seriously harmed or even worse by one of these immature, violent prisoners. They are murderers, child molesters, gang members, and people who have committed other offenses that were bad enough that they had to go to federal prison and they are being treated like they are at a 5 star hotel complete with concierge and butler service. Enough is enough. There are policies and procedures that are in place to protect the safety of BOTH the officers and the prisoners. Management needs to stop bending the rules on these policies and procedures and start letting the officers do their jobs in the safest way possible.

  • Correctional Officer's Concerned Family
    March 21, 2013 - 12:03

    What has been going on at SI by management has been blatant abuse of power and utter disregard for the safety of the officers that they employ and all so that the poor prisoners don't get upset. Management is treating the prisoners like the screaming kid at the grocery store and giving them all the candy they want just that they will stop screaming. They are in jail. They are in federal prison which means that what they did incurred a 2 or more year sentence. Management has been presented with credible threats against the officers' safety and they have purposely chosen to ignore the threats which have been proven to be credible. These managers are putting my husban'd life at risk. They are putting my children's father's life at risk and they are putting my inlaws son's life at risk and they KNOW it yet they are continuing to do it! Something has to change and management at SI needs to stop sticking their chest out and giving candy to screaming babies and start taking responsibility and being accountable and stop taking the easy way out. Because, someday, by taking the easy way out, one or more of our loved ones who wotk there could very easily be seriously harmed or even worse by one of these immature, violent prisoners. They are murderers, child molesters, gang members, and people who have committed other offenses that were bad enough that they had to go to federal prison and they are being treated like they are at a 5 star hotel complete with concierge and butler service. Enough is enough. There are policies and procedures that are in place to protect the safety of BOTH the officers and the prisoners. Management needs to stop bending the rules on these policies and procedures and start letting the officers do their jobs in the safest way possible.

  • CO
    March 21, 2013 - 11:17

    " It looks like Management (who are in these positions for a reason) are dealing with a few people who cannot handle the job and are making it hard for everyone else." ^ That's a joke.

  • fergus murphy
    March 21, 2013 - 08:18

    Being a retired Correctional Officer I understand the frustration. When an Officer has to be concerned about unwarranted disciplinary action towards them, it impacts decisions that they have to make daily.(situational awareness) Also once inmates realize this condition exists thry feel empowered and thereby a greater hazard is created. Perhaps the records of the managers when they were officers should be examined. Some of these managers may have something in common with the inmates. They feel "empowered" also and this ,in my opinion, is an abuse of authority that they need to be "disciplined" for as well. I'll bet it was a pre-existing trait among some of these managers. FPM Retired Correctional Officer

  • Correction Family
    March 21, 2013 - 07:55

    If the guards are doing their jobs properly there is nothing to worry about. The problem is there are people out there who want to stay in the area and the Prison is the biggest draw for employment. They work hard to get themselves in the door and realize after that not everyone is cut out to work in these conditions. A large number of my family members work there and it is a stressful environment with threats all around you everyday....some people can handle it...some cannot. It looks like Management (who are in these positions for a reason) are dealing with a few people who cannot handle the job and are making it hard for everyone else. The environment they work in will never be 100% safe for Management or the Guards. If you can't handle it move on and find a job where you feel safe and do not have the stress of these working conditions.