Staffing levels dropping at EMDC, causing concerns
Tension is mounting at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre once again. This time the issue surrounds back-filling absent correctional officers.
Only one third of posts are being filled as two thirds of the staff are on authorized leaves or on regular days off and they haven't been replaced.
It is an unsafe situation for staff and inmates and its impact is being felt beyond the bars.
An arbitrator has already ruled that absent staff need to be replaced but as of this week, management at EMDC will no longer commit to filling those gaps.
"They just don't want to go anywhere near that type of language that they think binds them," says OPSEU representative Rain Loftus.
Following a weekend stabbing, insufficient staffing levels helped to prolong a weekend lockdown at the jail
Now, inmates are dealing with rotating lockdowns, partially because vacant posts aren't being filled.
"Anybody that calls in sick, anybody with vacation, people are on leaves that can be approved through the collective agreement, any of those are utilized, it puts further stress on an already difficult schedule," adds Loftus.
Correctional officers tell CTV News that these staff shortages have led to the cancellation of inmates' visits with family, friends and lawyers.
It's basically slowed the justice system down to a crawl.
"Everybody talks about the wheels of justice turning slowly, in this case, they are probably backing up a bit," says London attorney Gord Cudmore.
Cudmore felt the sting of the shortage first hand this week.
"We had a trial that was supposed to begin [Monday] at 10 a.m. The prisoner didn't arrive at all, didn't arrive until one o'clock [Tuesday], so the trial will begin at 2:30, hopefully," says Cudmore.
Correctional officers say many inmates couldn't be brought to court because there wasn't sufficient staff to transport them safely.
And the delays are likely to continue.
"This schedule doesn't work. There are overages in some parts of the days and huge shortfalls in the other parts of the day," adds Loftus.
The union addressed the issue with the Minister of Correctional Services, who in a letter obtained by CTV News, said:
"The Ministry will continue to call in staff when there are vacancies due to absences, based on the operational needs of the institution."