March 22, 2019 4:44 pm
Updated: March 22, 2019 5:31 pm

Parrtown staffing levels ‘bad for safety of public and staff,’ says union VP

WATCH: A community corrections facility in Saint John has seen six inmates walk away since the beginning of the year, and now the representative for the union of safety and justice employees is blaming funding cuts and a lack of staff. Silas Brown reports.

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According to a local union representative, staffing levels inside Saint John’s Parrtown Community Correctional Centre are having an impact on the parole officers who have to deal with offenders every day.

Carol Osborne, regional vice-president of the Union of Safety and Justice Workers,  says the decision by the Correctional Service of Canada to change staffing ratios is pushing employees to the brink.

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“I’m seeing an increase in burnout, an increase in people going on stress leave, sick leave, things like that, and harassment and grievances are increasing,” she said.

READ MORE: Police rearrest man who walked away from Saint John halfway house

In 2014, the Correctional Service of Canada changed the parole officer to inmate ratio in Parrtown from 1:8 to 1:13 in order to trim the budget after the federal government enacted the Deficit  Reduction Action Plan.

The Parrtown Community Correctional Centre is one of 15 similar facilities spread across the country that intends to act as a bridge between correctional institutions and the community for offenders. Since the beginning of the year, six inmates have walked away from the facility and one remains unlawfully at large.

While Osborne doesn’t blame the walkouts on the lower staffing levels, she says that it does have an impact on both public and job safety.

“What it does is it impacts on public safety as well and their safety, staff safety and that’s one of the most important concerns that we have for our union members here so we want to ensure that they are safe,” she said.

READ MORE: Saint John police once again seek help locating offender on Canada-wide warrant

Prior to 2014 the facility, which houses up to 26 inmates, had three parole officers. Now it only has two. The facility also had a non-union position for a police officer who was in charge of finding those unlawfully at large, a burden now shouldered by the Saint John Police.

“What else was cut as a result of the DRAP was the community correctional liaison officer,” she said.

“So what that was is that was a police officer that we had on contract with us and that was cut as a result as well and they’re the ones that go out and help us locate the offenders when they are unlawfully at large.’

READ MORE: Saint John police looking for man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Osborne says the that the union has been pushing for a return to pre-2014 staffing levels and a report prepared by representatives from both the USJE and CSC recommends that the acceptable PO to inmate ratio be restored to 1:8. But according to Osborne the funding issues faced by Parrtown are indicative of a larger trend facing the community wing of corrections.

“The community, as in Parrtown, all the community CCCs, along with our parole offices across the country, we represent 40 per cent of the offender population, however, we’re only receiving 6 per cent of that budget,” Osborne said.

Global News reached out to Correctional Service of Canada but the request for an interview was denied and comment was not received by deadline.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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