The Union of Canadian Correctional Officer, (UCCO) has released a short-film profiling the daily violent reality behind bars in Canadian prisons.
Titled Working on the Edge, the movie depicts the day-to-day reality of real events and includes moving interviews with those who have experienced horrific events while on the job.
One of the officers in the video is Joanne Rutley, a guard at Millhaven Institution, located just west of Kingston Ont. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has been off work since May. She saw her first murder on the job during the first six months of her career.
“I can’t remember the last time I had a decent sleep at night. I have trouble sleeping, I am always catastrophizing simple things,” said Rutley who attended a press conference on Parliment Hill Tuesday.
The union is calling on the government to recognize PTSD as an operational stress injury. They would also like to see a national treatment centre established where federal correctional officers can receive treatment for the disease.
“We need to help each other and we need to push on the Government to get immediate treatment for our members,” explained Jason Godin, the national president of UCCO.
According to the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment, about 30 per cent of all correctional officers will develop PTSD.
The union would also like to see occupational health and safety compensation streamlined, as it varies from province to province, adding that if the provincial and federal governments work together to form new legislation, it could change the lives of thousands of men and women working behind bars.
“I think the evidence is there, it’s just a matter of putting the case together. We know that Public Safety Canada is getting involved now and that’s a really good first step,” said Godin.
MPs on Parliament Hill had an opportunity to view the video on Tuesday at a pop-up correctional facility.
Working on the Edge is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness of the specific reality of correctional officers. Their invaluable contribution to public safety often goes unnoticed by the public, since it takes place behind the walls of penal institutions,” said Godin.
It’s hoped Working on the Edge will help not just politicians but the public better understand the job of a correctional officer.