Charter Rights
Story Archives
Sign Our Guestbook
View Guestbook
Contact Capp @   or   Post Comments  CAPP Message Board   and  Any Upcoming Events

Canada: Another weapon found at MTC’s ACA accredited prison.

Another weapon found at jail: guard
Jackknife found in Unit 2
By Raymond Bowe
Midland Free Press
October 22, 2004 @ 17:00

PENETANGUISHENE — A jackknife was discovered in Unit 2 at Central North Correctional Centre, Sunday afternoon, according to a prison employee.

Prison spokesperson Peter Mount could not confirm whether a weapon had been found.

A union representative and correctional officer inside CNCC, who requested anonymity, said the discovery of weapons is growing tiresome and dangerous.

“Obviously we have a problem,” said the correctional officer. “They (management) are finally admitting there is a problem, which has taken about three years.”

On Oct. 9, a 21-year-old man was stabbed several times in the upper body. He was treated at hospital under guard and released back into custody.

It’s unknown whether the purported jackknife was the weapon used in this assault.

The recent incident marked the third time in the last two months that an inmate had been stabbed inside the prison.

A few weeks ago, correctional officers found a pocketknife after two inmates were stabbed last month. Another inmate was stabbed to death in May.

Also on Sunday, a prison informant told correctional officers there could be weapons in Unit 5, one of the jail’s high traffic areas. This revelation made correctional officers cautious because inmates in Unit 5 have access to other areas of the prison, leading guards to assume other weapons could have been smuggled into or out of other areas.

“If there are reports (of weapons) in Unit 5, (other) inmates may have already gotten stuff,” said the correctional officer.

Inmates in Unit 5 have more free reign than most prisoners because they are assigned various work details — such as cleaning and deliveries — and therefore have unescorted access to other areas of the prison.

There was also discussion about closing down the kitchen, but management decided against it because that would likely agitate inmates, said the correctional officer. Kitchen staff were strip-searched before being permitted to begin their workday.

Fear of weapons in Unit 6 ultimately led to a work refusal.

Due to the possible dangers, correctional officers issued their second work refusal in two weeks.

On Oct. 7, correctional officers issued a work refusal after the central control computer was reduced to half-capacity; guards also had concerns that duress signals in some of the living units may not have worked properly had there been an emergency while the main computer was down.

With the recent concerns over possible weapons in Unit 6, union representatives and management could not come to an agreement about how to solve the problem, so a Ministry of Labour health and safety inspector was called in.

Mount said work refusals are a standard process.

“Employee safety is a top priority,” said Mount. “Occasionally, Ministry of Labour officials are summoned.

“We continue to encourage staff to draw attention to issues regarding safety,” said Mount, noting the well-being of the public, staff and inmates is paramount.

The Ministry of Labour inspector ordered that Unit 6 be searched thoroughly.

A ministry memo states, “The employer should take every reasonable precaution to protect the (health and safety) of a worker. The employer’s operating procedures require a mandatory once-every-two-weeks search of the inmate living areas. This order applies to Unit 6.”

Both units 5 and 6 were locked down Monday and searched thoroughly Tuesday, though no weapons were reported.

Correctional officers have repeatedly told management there needs to be regular searches every two weeks, not monthly, as has been happening.

Belinda Sutton, a Ministry of Labour spokesperson, said the memo essentially reinforced the jail’s existing policy.

“The employer already had the search policy of once every two weeks in place,” said Sutton. “The Ontario Ministry of Labour issued an order for the employer to follow its own internal procedure.”

Tuesday was the compliance date.

“The Ministry of Labour has been notified that the employer has complied with the order as of the compliance date,” Sutton said. “The order only applies to Unit 6 because this was the unit that was involved in the work refusal. However, the employer’s procedures cover all units.”

The prison’s biweekly search policy is “adequate,” said Mount, though he would not comment further on how often searches are actually conducted, citing potential security risks.

The correctional officer told The Free Press that management was apprehensive about shutting down Unit 6, where the prison’s in-house programs are held.

“The employer refused to allow us to search (Unit) 6 because it would shut down their precious programs,” said the correctional officer. “That was the last one they wanted shut down.”

In-house programs are a revenue source for the prison’s operators, Management and Training Corporation, said the correctional officer.

But prison officials say the jail is in a perpetual state of change.

“The facility... is constantly developing,” said Mount.

This raised the eyebrows of some staff.

“It makes me a bit leery about coming to work, and it has for three years,” said the correctional officer. “It’s not growing pains anymore.”

An Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) spokesperson said things have to change.

“The only thing to prevent this (finding weapons) is regular searches in that jail,” said Don Ford. “You’ll never stop contraband from coming in, but it will lessen the danger to staff and inmates, (but) you can’t eliminate it completely.”

Searches should be conducted as regularly as possible, said Ford, but definitely more than once a month. Public prisons have weekly searches, he said, and more frequently if needed.

At Toronto’s Don Jail, Ford said “there is not even a hesitation. If something is found, the inmates are locked down and (correctional officers) start searching. Even if it’s only a remote possibility... you err on the side of caution.”

Work refusals are rare at publicly run jails, said Ford.

“The ministry (of labour) obviously had no problem ordering the searches be done,” said Ford.

| Post Any Upcoming Events | Top of Page | Home Page | Post Comments on Message Board |