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

Concerns over guard ID tags

By Sharon Weatherall and Tom Villemaire
Midland Free Press
Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Local News - Guards at Penetanguishene's Super Jail want to know why the province appears to be more concerned about the privacy of inmates than they are over the security and privacy of the people who guard them.

Identification tags worn by prisoners were recently changed after concerns were raised the tags violated prisoner civil rights because of personal information contained on the tag.

Guards say similar tags they must wear could provide information to inmates that could allow them to get pieces of identification and credit cards in the name of the guards.

"We can't believe that no one is worried about this other than the guards," said a member of the privately run prison's security unit.

Guards spoke to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity. They said they were afraid of reprisals from the operators of the institution and the prisoners.

The tags have information on the front and back and are clipped to the breast pocket of the uniform. They are easily detached, say guards and they have fallen off during altercations with prisoners, while administering medical assistance and even while running.

"They are not secure and with the information on them, that is not a good thing."

The front of the tags include a photo of the guard, the guard's first and last name and initial and signature. The back of the tags also have the guard's height, weight, eye colour, hair colour and date of birth.

Guards claim their families have been called at home by inmates as a result of information culled from the tags.

The privately-run institution's policy is radically different and according to the Penetanguishene facility guards', more dangerous than that of the publically run institutions.

Julia Noonan, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Safety & Security, confirmed prison guards for government-operated correctional facilities wear ID tags with a lot less information on them.

“Our policy states that employees have to wear a clip-on ID tag on the left side of their chest, clearly visible. The tag has their photo on it and an ID number. The first four digits of the number are a code for the institution and the rest represent the employees personal ID code,” said Noonan.

“The only other information on the tag is the person’s position title - for example manager or correctional officer - and the full name of the facility they work at. The employee’s name is not on the tag.”

Doug Thomson, administrator of the 1,100 bed Penetanguishene correctional facility which is privately operated by the US based Management and Training Corporation (MTC), confirmed there is personal information on the ID tags worn by guards at MTC, including the name of the employee and work location. On the back of the card there is information that is “mostly physical description” of the person. Thomson said there is no date of birth information on the CNCC guard ID tags.

"Hey, they're criminals in here. Getting and using information for bad things is one of the reasons some of them are here. All they have to do is pull the tag off or pick one up that's fallen off and they have a whole lot of personal information about the people who are overseeing them in the institution," said a guard.

The concern ranks so high, guards have asked it be raised in a health and safety meeting, they told the Free Press.

"People seem more concerned about upsetting the prisoners," said a guard.

Guard ID Tags have had to be replaced, say guards, after they were lost or stolen.

Thomson said if a tag becomes stolen, lost or misplaced specific ministry policy is followed in which a report is filed and the proper authorities are notified so appropriate action can to taken. He said only one such incident has been reported at CNCC.

Thomson said all correctional employees in the province must wear ID tags.

It is measure to bring positive identification of a person, not only by other staff but for inmates who may have a report to make.

To his knowledge, Thomson said no complaint had been made regarding information on guard ID tags.

Such an issue would come before the facility Health & Safety Committee.

“The committee consists of members from the employee representation and administration. A review process takes place and a decision is made to deal with it based on the recommendation made by the Heath & Safety Committee,” said Thomson.

As for the difference in ID tags worn by guards in government operated facilities as opposed to those worn by guards at CNCC, Thomson said wearing ID tags is ministry policy across the province and company policy that must be followed.

“We can’t speak with the ministry, we are a separate employer andwe will look at any concerns. That is the purpose of the Health & Safety Committee, to look at the issue and make the appropriate recommendation, “ he said

Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop said he was unaware of the information that is on the ID tags of guards working at CNCC, but agreed that unless there was some type of security reason for it, that much information was not necessary.

“If there is no good reason for the information to be on the tags, then it should be removed,” said Dunlop on Friday.

“It sounds like it is not necessary but then I don’t know the security reasons behind it.”

The guard ID tag issue follows a recent controversy at the CNCC regarding the removal from inmate identification tags information which suggested race profiling and ultimately stimulated complaints of human rights violation.

The practice was ended within hours of media reports. Responding to that matter, Thomson was quoted saying the facility had not been collecting information for racial profiling but the information was used for enhancing facility security and ensuring public safety in knowing who the right inmate is.

The ID information in question is used in US jails within the MTC system.

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