……again, and again, and again.
Toronto law firm Koskie Minsky, LLP launched class actions a few months ago against Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services over the extraordinary use of lockdowns in the province’s jails. One, naming London’s Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre has been certified.
While indicators may show fewer lockdowns in some institutions since the law suits came to public attention, one opinion suggests there has been little change. After all, as one inmate pointed out, jail guards are not being sued, and neither is OPSEU, the Ontario Public Servants Employees Union which represents them.
Guards are the wellspring of lockdowns which can be institution-wide, or localized to specific ranges or areas of a jail complex. Lockdowns may or may not affect professional and family visits, although institution-wide security driven lockdowns universally do. Staff shortages trigger partial or total lockdowns and/or a suspension of visits.
There is one interesting example at Toronto South Detention Centre for a potentially frivolous institution-wide lockdown of inmates up to 24 hours a day over at least three days this fall, and which prompted the cancellation of all visits.
Toronto South was locked down on Saturday, October 28, Sunday, October 30, and Monday, October 31. All visits were cancelled over the three days. Shifts at TSDC usually run from 7pm to 7am, and 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. There were no apparent security or safety issues to cause this disruption of routine, but the other possible explanation was a substantial staff shortage.
A freedom of information request to the FOI services division of CSCS on November 2 asked for “the number of uniformed staff members scheduled to be on duty between 7pm, Friday, October 28, 2016, and 7am, Tuesday, November 1, 2016, who were unable to work their shifts during that period.”
The response came back quickly, dated November 16. “There were 100 uniformed staff members unable to work their shift(s) between 7:00pm October 28, 2016, and 7:00am November 1, 2016.”
No request was made for the total number in the uniformed work force scheduled during the period, or the total number of shifts involved. That information would understandably be withheld. All the same, 100 missing bodies would constitute at least a very few hundred uncovered shifts for the three days.
What happened? Halloween happened, and Halloween is not a statutory holiday when shift bonuses kick in.