In the past several years, Nova Scotians were dismayed over repeat incidents of prisoners escaping custody or being mistakenly released. That should make them hardened to more recent revelations of lockdowns in the province’s largest jail.
Not to make light of a concern from the Opposition – the public wants to know about such events because they are a matter of security. But they’re also a continuation of what prison staff were saying at the time of the escapes – equipment and training are lacking.
Liberal justice critic Michel Samson has put Justice Minister Ross Landry on the spot over recent events at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. It’s been locked down five times in the past three weeks.
It’s difficult to say why the government might not be quick to divulge such information. As Samson asserts, this is a matter of public security and people have the right to know.
Landry responds that the lockdowns are a “routine part of business” in what is a populous jail.
The description of this as routine is at least as disconcerting as the public’s lack of awareness.
A reminder of those mistaken releases not so long ago: reports have said the jail’s correctional officers have repeatedly locked inmates in their cells over concerns the guards lack appropriate safety gear, training and staffing levels.
Landry noted that the union representing the guards is in the midst of contract negotiations – but he also confirmed there has been a delay in getting a shipment of stab-proof vests that the guards had asked for.
Now that’s a potential workplace hazard most, happily, can’t directly relate to – but they’ll easily understand the concern.
This is a growing issue on more than one level, as the federal government pushes its tough-on-crime agenda. If you lock people up, you have to have the corresponding security.
More than needing to know about the lockdowns, the public wants assurance that these front-line workers have what they need to do their jobs.