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Canada: Guards fight plans to privatize jail services

CBC News
March 9 2005

MONTREAL About 100 jail guards demonstrated in front of the Montreal courthouse Wednesday morning.

They're worried that the Quebec government is considering privatizing some jail services.

The government has mused openly about privatizing some jails as part of its public-private-partnerships program.

The guards say that's a bad idea.

"When you live in a society, and you could make profit with the incarceration of people, I think you have a bad problem in your society," says Michel Hubert, president of the guards' union.

Hubert says private jails in the United States do not work well. He says companies cut back on security measures to increase profits.

"You have more escapes, and more problems of violence in those private jails," he says.

The union wants to meet with the new Public Security minister, Jacques Dupuis. Its members want Dupuis to assure the public there are no plans to privatize jail services.

Meanwhile, Dupuis says the government could build a new jail through a public-private partnership.

Like the guards, he says, he is concerned about the way prisoners have been handled in similar jails in other countries. But, he says, the guards are overreacting.

"I have certain questions that I would like to go further with the way the people were treated in the jail, and all that," Dupuis says. "We have to look into that. It can't be an automatic decision. We have to look at all aspects."

Dupuis points out that provincial jail guards are currently trying to negotiate a new contract with the government.

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