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Canada: Former MTC Sgt blows the whistle. "Former Jail Manager Raises Concerns"
by Kim Goggins
The Mirror
Friday, Feb. 3, 2006

A former manager at the Central North Correctional Centre says he has major concerns about the well-being of employees and inmates at the jail.

Former CNCC Sgt. Martin Speyer, 29, alleges inmates receives a poor diet and medical care, and staff is bullied by senior management inside Canada's only privately-run adult prison.

Speyer was fired by Management & Training Corporation (MTC) on Jan. 11, after being on administrative leave since Dec. 20, 2005. In his dismissal letter, the company alleges he was dishonest, he spoke negatively about the institution in public, he negelected his duty; made misleading statements; and was involved in a criminal act or negative behaviour.

Speyer refutes the allegations, saying he was, until October 2005, considered a model employee - one who received numerous letters of commendation and gratitude from prison officials, and was even Correctional Officer of the Year during the first year of operation.

When contacted by The Mirror, Peter Mount, director of communications, declined to comment on Speyer's allegations, noting that as a manager, it was Speyer's responsibility to bring forth any concerns while he was employed at the prison.

Speyer says it wasn't until he filed a complaint against another manager in October 2005, and became more outspoken about employee issues that he fell from grace.

"They are bullied, absolutely bullied," he says. "They are scared every day. When the staff come in, they are afraid of losing their jobs. The key phrase that is used all the time there is, "I'm one report away from being fired."

Medical care is an issue at the jail that has been highlighted in the media since it opened.

(Medication) is not done properly, pure and simple," says Speyer. "These guys are not getting the medication they deserve. As a sergeant, I don't know how many times my staff have been in situations where they have encountered violence from an inmate that's acting out because they don't get proper medication.

The Elizabeth Fry Society says that medical care - usually how long it takes to see a doctor - is always the biggest concern of female inmates at the prison, and it's always high on the agenda when the council of the Elizabeth Fry Societies of Ontario meet with prison administration three or four times a year. Once individual issues are addressed with prison officials, they are usually rectified for the inmate.

Dr. Martin McNamara, a physician in the emergency room at Huronia District Hospital, says the ER sees an average of one inmate a day from CNCC and in terms of general care, believes they are well looked after now, but problems, such as waiting time to see a doctor, still exist.

According to Mount, the prison has 24-hour, seven days-a-week nursing care, as well as a general physician on site for about 54 hours each week.

Special dietary needs not being met is also a concern raised by Speyer.

Paula King, executive director of Elizabeth Fry in Simcoe County, says the organization has had to advocate for pregnant women whose dietary needs were not being met.

"We have had to go to bat for pregnant women who have not received the proper amounts of milk and fresh fruit (as per ministry guidelines)," says King.

Mount says the jail meets the standards set by the ministry.

"All of the inmate menus and diets served at Central North are set out by the Ministry Of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and they are actually designed to meet or exceed the Canadian Food Guide...The meals we serve at Central North are the same meals being served in a number of the facilities in the province and actually the ministry's senior nutritional consultant ensures that all the menus meet the nutritional and caloric content required."

Speyer first became disenchanted with the organization during the American Correctional Association accreditation process in September 2004, he says.

One of the most frequently cited reasons by correctional facilities to seek accreditation is to demonstrate to interested parties that the organization is operating at professional standards. When MTC sought its accreditation, Speyer says he was in charge of making sure the prison looked the way it was supposed to during the process, organizing crews that worked steadily to make it look like the kitchen and bathrooms had been regularly cleaned.

"We had crews going through to extra scrub the toilets (with drills that had scrub brushes on the end) so they looked like they were scrubbed on a daily basis, although they hadn't been touched (for a long time)."

He says he and others were asked by senior management to take cleaning chemicals, extra tools and extra medical supplies out of the prison to ensure MTC met with ACA standards.

A letter dated Dec. 17, 2004 by then-acting facility administrator Phill Clough, thanked Speyer for his 'above and beyond' commitment to the accreditation, but the process was the biggest letdown Speyer had ever felt in his professional life, he says.

"It wasn't something that anyone could say that they're proud of but...I believed from day one what it (the accreditation) was supposed to be for. I believed that once we achieved this certain standard that we weren't going to go back to the old ways," he tells The Mirror. "So, when I was taking this stuff out of the institution, I was thinking this is going to be that much better for the staff. Then, once we had the accreditation on the wall, it went back to how it was."

Speyer has joined Citizens Against Private Prisons in its fight to have the provincial government not renew MTC's contract, which comes due in the fall of 2006. The government has to make its decision by May.

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