Assaults against Ontario correctional officers skyrocket
Documents obtained by CTV News show that inmate assaults on guards are rising significantly, with the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) leading the pack.
And that has OPSEU, the union that represents correctional officers, demanding tougher penalties for offenders.
Tammy Carson, OPSEU provincial health and safety chair, says, "Assaults against staff by offenders are increasingly going up everyday."
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services reports:
- 324 assaults by inmates on guards in 2010
- 367 assaults in 2011
- 348 assaults in 2012
- 524 assaults in 2013
- 448 assaults from Jan. 1 to July 8, 2014
Dominic Bragaglia has been a correctional officer for over 25 years, and he's had his share of incidents.
"You know, I've been bit, I've been stabbed, I've been punched - stick around long enough and things are going to happen to you."
But he says things have gotten much worse since the Ontario ombudsman released a scathing report on correctional officers' use of force.
"That ombudsman's report really empowered the offenders. Couple that with no sanctions for the inmates, no room in segregation - we've got no carrot, we've got no stick. That's what this government has done to us."
According to Brent Ross, a spokesperson for the ministry, there are sanctions in place for assaulting staff.
In an email he says, "The Ministry takes the health and welfare of its staff very seriously. Violence within our correctional facilities is unacceptable and we have zero tolerance when it comes to assaults or threats against our staff.
"Inmates who engage in violent behaviour towards staff face misconduct penalties, such as being placed in segregation, loss of privileges, and forfeiture of earned remission.It should be noted that assault is a criminal charge and should an inmate be suspected of an assault on staff, police are contacted to investigate and if the police deem it appropriate, charges are laid."
Essentially, inmates face the same penalties for assaulting a guard as they do for assaulting one another, which is why the union believes inmate on inmate assaults have remained fairly constant, while assaults on staff have risen.
According to the ministry, in 2010 there were 2,862 inmate-on-inmate assaults, that rose slightly to 2,890 in 2013 and in the first six months of 2014 there have been 1,375 assaults, which puts it on track to remain consistent this year.
Carson says the penalties needs to change, "Perhaps double or triple the time as if you assault another inmate, because we're there to uphold the peace and do a job."
OPSEU has started keeping its own numbers on assaults against staff and it says that this month alone, there have been about two dozen assaults by inmates on staff, and nearly a third of those were at EMDC.
And despite the union's calls for stiffer penalties, Bragaglia says "We work in a correctional facility. Things are going to happen, but people shouldn't expect to be assaulted every day. That's not inherent to our job."