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Memo blasts CNCC staff issues

Excerpts don't tell story says spokesman
By Tom Villemaire Free Press

A draft internal memo says staffing issues makes scheduling a nightmare and that the Central North Correctional Centre is not in compliance with its contract with the province.

Peter Mount, CNCC spokesman, says the excerpts reported earlier in the press are from a memo more than 30 pages long. He said it is not fair to take the snippets of information out of context.

The internal draft memo from deputy of operations Phil Clough to superintendent Doug Thomson said staffing issues mean shift scheduling "doesn't meet the needs community escorts, particularly when they are admitted to hospital."

But Mount, said the public doesn't need to worry.

When prisoners from Central North Correctional Centre need medical attention, they are not "put in a taxi and sent to the hospital" on their own.

"Our escort policy is designed to ensure proper escorts into the community. We, the same as the ministry use a policy in which police are hired where correctional officers are not used. These police are paid and there are two escorts at all times when inmates are in the community. There are three actually - on is a driver."

CNCC people meet with HDH monthly to discuss concerns, said Mount.

Communication director Mount said the information made public during a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday contained portions of a 38 page "draft" internal review that is a regular part of the facility's ongoing efforts to ensure safety of the inmates, staff and community.

A guard and union spokesman from the publically-run Superjail near Lindsay compared the Superjail to the Titanic.

Barry Scanlon, a guard at the publicly run superjail in Maplehurst, and representative of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the institution was "ripe for disaster."

"We don't want (guards) coming out in bodybags," said Scanlon.

"Central North Correctional Centre Titanic is what it is. It's just waiting for that iceberg to come up."

Chronic understaffing at Ontario's privately run superjail has led to inadequate supervision of the maximum-security institution and of inmates escorted into the community, the internal document suggests.

The draft memo outlines numerous problems at the three-year-old facility.

"Searches are not being done in a systemic manner," the memo states.

Clough also wrote that trying to schedule shifts properly was "an exercise in futility," raising concerns over public safety.

"The present shift schedule...doesn't meet the needs of community escorts, particularly when they are admitted to hospital."

Local MPP, Garfield Dunlop is also the public security critic for the Progressive Conservative party. Dunlop said he was concerned about the issues raised by the memo.

"If they aren't conforming to the guidelines of the contract, the ministry should make them conform. There are ministry people in the prison. I'm surprised they would let this happen," Dunlop told the Free Press.

Critics seized on the confidential review of staffing levels as proof that Utah-based Management and Training Corporation which operates the 1,200-bed Central North Correctional Centre was putting profits before public safety. That doesn't jib with a story run two weeks ago by The Free Press that suggested CNCC may be losing money. There is no official word on the profitability of the facility.

Here's a quick look at the numbers: Just over halfway through Management and Training Corporation's five-year contract with the ministry of corrections to run Central North Correctional Centre and a detailed cost comparison with an identical publicly run prison has yet to reveal answers about how much money - if any -is being saved.

Dunlop has said the privately operated CNCC is saving provincial taxpayers about $26 million a year compared to Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, which is publicly run.

"It makes sense if you do the math," said Dunlop in an earlier interview. "We don't have the hard numbers on Lindsay, but everything I've seen shows it (operates) at about $140 per day per inmate.

With a capacity to house 1,184 inmates, CECC would cost about $60.5 million yearly to run, according to Dunlop's figures.

The two prisons are identical in design.

Under MTC's contract to run the so-called 'superjail', the company is obligated to operate the prison at $79.45 per day per inmate, which works out to $34.3 million per year.

MTC is paid $170.8 million - or $34.16 million a year - over the contracts duration.

"Our issue is not only money, but to perform within or exceed contract standards, and that's what we strive for," said Mount in an earlier interview.

"We may operate (at a loss) to help society," Mount added.

When the former Tory government announced the new jail would be privately operated, it assuaged community fears by promising tough standards a private operator would have to meet.

Those standards - including minimum staffing levels - were enshrined in a contract between the company and the province that runs to 2006.

However, the memo obtained by the union two weeks ago and apparently written at the end of May or in early June, indicates the company had failed to live up to its end of the deal.

"On a regular basis, we are not in compliance with the contract," it says bluntly.

Mount couldn't confirm when the memo was generated.

"I do not know the date of the memo. We do not know where the leak occurred, Yesterday it was presented at a press conference in Toronto." said Mount.

Thomson takes the contract and government guidelines very seriously, he has said. In a story that ran two weeks ago he said the difference between the privately-run operation and the publically-run facility was the contract.

"What's different here is that there is a contract," said Thomson in that story. "There is monitoring, both from (the) contract compliance (unit) on site, to our board of monitors, to our community advisory committee, which members of the public come in and talk about the facility's impact in the community, to meeting with the press to answer some tough questions and how we remain accountable.
Mount said, "The document was an internal draft and our first response came after when we received notification by a third party that portions had been released in a press conference. We had to research to find out what document they were referring to.

When asked if the facility was doing anything to address a staffing shortage, Mount said, "the question is an assumption there is a staffing shortage here. We are committed to use and review resources that are available at all times to do our job. We meet the obligation with numbers of staff here and the are used to the best as possible. We maintain staff levels and use our own escorts whenever possible. In situations where an escort is not used, we use police."

"It is essential that people understand this document is our own "internal review" of operations security and staff. It is unfortunate that pieces of it have been released into the public and for security reasons we cannot release the rest. The review is part of ongoing improvements to operations and the facility to ensure safety and we continue to strive to do our best, said Mount.

Clough and Thomson were not available for comment. Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter was not available, a spokesman said.

Dan Gregoire, a former guard at the jail, accused the company of failing to come clean with the government and public.

"Please, for the safety of the community, the inmates and for the's time to remove this private operator," said Gregoire.

Four people have died during their custody period at CNCC since May of 2003.

Minh Tu, 28, died May 5, 2004, from a stab wound, the first homicide at the jail since it opened in November 2001. Four male inmates were charged with first-degree murder in Tu's death.

Joseph Balog, 20, of Barrie, died at Huronia District Hospital in October 2003, just a few hours after being admitted to CNCC.

Jeffrey Elliot, 20, died in September 2003, from a septic infection to his hand after her sustained a cut the month prior. Elliot died following treatment at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto where he had been transported by air ambulance. An inquest into Elliot's death begins Sept. 13.

An inquest into the death of Lorne Thaw, 50, was held in February and concluded he died of natural causes. The Barrie native was found unconscious May 8, 2003, and was later pronounced dead at HDH. The coroner determined Thaw died of cardiac arrhythmia.

A recent trail into the attack on an inmate in the prison yielded no convictions, despite the attack taking place in the facility during a snack period for the inmates.

The victim was yanked out of the food lineup with a pillowcase over his head and dragged to a cell, where he was stabbed more than 30 times with the sharpened end of a pink toothbrush.

He was also kicked, choked and beaten. His legs were placed over the bunk and jumped on by two or three other inmates, leaving him with broken ribs and ankles, a concussion and multiple stab wounds.

With files from Sharon Weatherall, Raymond Bowe and CP

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