Prison guards protest prison funding announcement

Ottawa will spend $45-million in Manitoba to keep more convicts behind bars.

The feds are expanding prisons across Canada and promised on Friday almost 150 more beds at Stony Mountain and Rockwood, just north of Winnipeg.

"These investments will help ensure dangerous criminals serve a sentence that reflects the severity of their crime," said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Critics say a new law, which eliminates the two-for-one credit given to criminals for time served awaiting trial, is contributing to an already overcrowded prison system.

The federal government is spending $35-million to build 96 new, maximum security beds at Stony Mountain Institution, a medium security facility located 11 kilometers north of Winnipeg.

$10-million will also be spent to add 50 more beds at nearby Rockwood Institution, a minimum security facility that will also be used to house some of the more dangerous inmates.

"We’ll be able to house maximum security offenders there and it will provide us with some flexibility with regards to how we safely manage our population," said Robert Bonnefoy, warden for Stony Mountain.

Stony Mountain is meant to hold 546 inmates but is already 60 inmates over capacity.

The union representing 300 federal correction officers in Manitoba protested Friday’s announcement outside the prison, demanding a meeting with the minister.

"We have to open those doors,” said Prairie Regional President for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Kevin Grabowsky. “We have to deal with those inmates when they come out."

Prison guards say they’re already working in deplorable conditions. Four inmates have tested positive for scabies, a skin disease that has left at least one correctional officer hospitalized.

"They (inmates) are throwing urine and feces,” said Grabowsky. “We’re dealing with their blood all the time."

Grabowsky also says the existing units are not secure enough now and they want to have a say in how the new cells are built.

So far the union says their calls to set up meetings with the minister have gone unanswered.

The new living units will be completed by 2014.


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