Ontario correctional officers should see report as a chance to improve working conditions: Ombudsman
June 20, 2013
20 June 2013
In his latest report, released on June 11, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin revealed systemic problems with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ treatment of the use of excessive force in correctional institutions, which he said are troubled by a pervasive “code of silence” that has been festering for years.
(TORONTO – June 20, 2013) In his latest report, released on June 11, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin revealed systemic problems with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ treatment of the use of excessive force in correctional institutions, which he said are troubled by a pervasive “code of silence” that has been festering for years.
In the report, the Ombudsman reported on egregious examples of use of force by correctional officers that were verified by Ministry investigations – examples in which correctional staff committed “brazen acts of violence” against inmates, attempted to destroy and falsify evidence, and intimidated colleagues who tried to speak out against them.
Responding to comments by union representatives and correctional officers today, Mr. Marin said: “We acknowledge that correctional officers face challenges in their workplaces, like overcrowding, understaffing and a lack of resources. But stresses on the job don’t justify excessive use of force, cover up, and intimidation. It is morally repugnant to use inmates as punching bags, regardless of the conditions in these facilities. We suspect we would have seen more of these incidents if staff weren’t afraid to come forward and break the code of silence to report on their colleagues.
The Ombudsman’s investigators conducted more than 180 interviews with correctional officers, their union representatives and managers, whistleblowers, inmates and Ministry officials at all levels. They also visited correctional institutions around the province and reviewed thousands of documents, photos and videos relating to incidents of use of force.
The report, The Code, made 45 recommendations to the government to end the “code of silence” and improve the processes for dealing with use of force allegations. The Ministry has pledged to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations, and has already begun strengthening its policies to improve hiring and training practices and ensure more rigorous investigation of allegations of use of force.
“It is unfortunate that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union isn’t seizing this opportunity to denounce the use of excessive violence by correctional officers, and to help eradicate the practices of coercing and intimidating colleagues to cover up these incidents,” said Mr. Marin. “The Ministry has accepted my recommendations and did not take issue with the facts contained in the report. Ministry officials will also be reporting to me on their progress every six months. I hope the union will see this as a chance to improve working conditions for inmates and correctional officers alike.”
Since Mr. Marin’s appointment in 2005, SORT has conducted more than 30 investigations into broad systemic problems affecting millions of Ontarians. The government has implemented almost all of his recommendations arising from these cases, including improving newborn screening, increasing lottery security and overhauling the property tax assessment system.
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Ashley Bursey, Assistant Manager, Communications
Elena Yunusov, Communications Officer
Laura Nadeau, Communications Officer