Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
The Saskatchewan Governmental Employees’ Union (SGEU) has charged that poisonous work environments in the province’s prison system could spark violence that threatens the safety of correctional officers.
A statement issued on July 7, 2011, by SCEU president Bob Bymoen cites inmate overcrowding and lack of staff support as two main problems Saskatchewan prisons face. “The government has got lots of pressure on corrections, on all the management of all the ministries, to keep the number of employees down,” Bymoen says. “Even though the number of inmates keeps increasing, they don’t want to increase the number of staff to deal with the programming and the security.”
The provincial government had been planning to build a Saskatoon remand centre, but the project was postponed. The impending closure of the Battlefords Community Correctional Centre in North Battleford will exacerbate the problem even more, Bymoen suggests. Double-bunking has become a common practice in correctional centres, while other inmates are being kept in areas not intended to house them, including gyms.
The SGEU’s concerns are, in part, a response to an incident at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre on June 29, 2014, when a fight broke between members of different gangs. Two inmates sustained stab wounds.
Bymoen cites gangs sprinkling – the mixing of rival gang members within the same prison – as one cause of violence. Due to shortage of space, gang enemies have to share areas in closed, contained environments. “Most of the time, what happens is a violent situation.” Getting caught in the middle of this are other inmates and correction officers, he adds.
Bymoen also claims that some employers are denying vacation leave to workers and making part-time employees work full-time to compensate for the understaffing. “It is a tough situation,” he says. “All we can do is ask management to rethink those decisions and set up the processes for the workers to be able to talk to the management.”
There is a really need for hazard assessments to be completed and possible permanent corrective action taken to alleviate both the understaffing as well as the real threat to life that exists every day in the prison system.
What is it going to take for change, a couple of deaths, riots, threats to life for both inmates as well as correctional officers?
The time is now to accept the need for change and place corrective action. Change is inevitable, so why not initiate changes that make it a safer workplace. The number one concern, workers are allowed to work in a safe environment.
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including hazard assessment audits. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.