Logic & the politics of public service

A Toronto Star workplace safety piece in its July 28 edition was headed, “PTSD rates high among male correctional officers.” According to the Department of Public Safety, 36 per cent of men working as guards in federal prisons report the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, reflecting what the guards say is “the dangerous and emotionally corrosive atmosphere” inside prisons. No information was released for female prison workers.

The article went on to compare the levels of the disorder among some occupations subject to disruptive stressors, and the population in general. The point of the report though was the continuing difficulties these men can have getting the help they feel is needed because not enough attention is paid to their predicament.

This isn’t the first time the complaint has come to the notice of the media. But nowhere has there been a mention that prison conditions subjecting employees to excessive stress always includes components under which inmates are affected by the same stressors. But, inmates are more often than not expected to ‘suck it up.’

Care not for the welfare of criminals if you will, but given the circumstances, why would anyone be surprised the problem for uniformed staff is so persistent?

August 2, 2016

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: PTSD & prison guards

Dear Minister Goodale:

The media is again referencing the high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among federal prison guards, and the difficulties they encounter qualifying for treatment and compensation.

One factor always overlooked which exacerbates the challenges for guards is the incidents of PTSD among federal prison inmates. The environmental conditions stressing CSC staff members also affect the men and women on the other side of the bars in the same way and to the same degree. Some inmates may already display symptoms of the disorder when they first enter the prison system, a result of their life’s experience.

The difference for inmates is that assets which guards access in the community, or to which they can petition for redress, are not available in prison health-care units, or are withheld arbitrarily, or have a limited efficacy. The result is an overall highly charged negative atmosphere. Given those circumstances, it is no wonder a large percentage of guards in our federal prisons are asking for help.

Solutions must include remedies for everyone behind the walls.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

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