About 200 Toronto South Detention Centre guards refused non-essential work at the jail on Monday, March 4, after an alleged assault by inmates injured eight staff members on the previous weekend.
OPSEU represents the jail employees and argues a staff shortage is a major cause of increased violence at the facility. The walkout lasted only one day but the issue the union raised has been ongoing since TSDC opened.
At the same time, a senior Toronto judge says it is “absolutely unacceptable” and “unfair” that inmates are frequently in full lockdown at the South, and he and other judges often award enhanced credits for time-served in pre-trial custody. One defence lawyer called the recurring lockdowns “horrific, it’s a human rights violation.” Daniel Brown, a Toronto lawyer and vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, references “deplorable conditions” at this jail and others around the province.
There’s more to this long-running standoff than simply a lack of guards, and we said so in a letter to Ontario’s current Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services:-
March 15, 2019
The Honourable Sylvia Jones,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
Toronto South Detention Centre has been a challenge since the institution opened, and the recent “labour dispute” indicates operational issues persist.
Of course, no staff member should be targeted for assault. OPSEU members blame understaffing as the main culprit.
The “why” question also needs to be asked of criminal lawyers, social workers, and inmates most importantly. For example, no inmate who is not deranged awakes of a morning and decides to assault a guard that day. Are you aware of the consequences? Ask an inmate, or preferably, a former inmate. Apparently too, guards have a weaker constitution and are given respite after violent incidents.
Disrespect for inmates and their property, lock-downs, humiliation, intimidation, guard assaults on inmates, human rights’ abuses, Charter violations, and widespread indifference to MCCS policies factor into the stress and unrest so prevalent at TSDC.
Exacerbating this mess, management from the institutional level up through the ranks even to your office appear unconcerned, even in the face of adverse publicity.
Charles H. Klassen
Copied on this was Sam Erry, Ms Jones’ deputy minister, Warren Thomas, head of OSEU, Chris Jackel, head of OPSEU’s correctional division, and MPP Kevin Yarde, the NDP justice critic.
MCCS headquarters at 25 Grosvenor Street seems oblivious, and conditions can only get worse under the current Conservative government in Ontario.