You have to wonder if senior bosses at Corrections Canada are starting to get nervous about a looming staffing crisis. Nearly half of the recruits in the latest prison guard training program at the regional staff college in Kingston, Ontario, failed out of the program recently, Cancrime learned. Nine of 21 recruits in the program were booted last week because they could not pass the firearms testing, sources tell me. That doesn’t bode well for an organization that is scrambling to hire thousands more employees as federal penitentiaries swell with new prisoners.
Corrections has said publicly that it is hiring at least 3,000 new staff immediately to deal with the mammoth prison expansion program that is underway, the byproduct of the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime initiatives. The service has posted online a warm and fuzzy, six-minute recruiting video that features interviews with current CSC staff who talk about the joys of working for the service – though the video never actually shows you what life is like inside a penitentiary, particularly a maximum-security institution. Oddly, the video appeared briefly on YouTube yesterday and then it was converted to private status, a few hours after I tweeted about it. The video was accompanied by text that said Corrections is hiring 4,000 staff, not the lower 3,000 figure reported previously. It’s not clear if the video was actually posted on YouTube by CSC.
The recruiting video concludes with some reassuring words from the unseen narrator about the value of a career in Corrections:
So what do careers with the Correctional Service of Canada mean?
Teamwork: Variety: Good pay, good benefits, and a variety options including shift work and regular hours positions.
The chance for growth and a solid career path…
If you’re interested in changing lives, protecting Canadians, we’d like you to consider joining our team! Visit our site or talk to a recruiting team member – the Correctional Service of Canada
They may want to edit the video to add the line: “And you have to be able to shoot straight.”
Sources tell me that recruits in the prison guard training program are particularly having trouble qualifying on use of the 9 mm handgun (they use the Heckler & Koch P2000 V5) that correctional officers carry (See previous post about the woman who would have been CSC’s first hijab-wearing guard who failed because she could not pass the firearms testing with this handgun). Anyone who has fired a handgun will tell you that it’s not like TV cop shows – it’s a challenge to hit anything from any distance with a handgun. Corrections staff are trained “to engage targets at a maximum distance of 25 meters” with this gun, according to the internal firearms training manual. As someone who grew up with guns and has fired handguns, I can tell you that it would be a challenge to hit anything from 25 metres with a handgun, and incredibly difficult if that target was moving. Corrections considers handgun training vital, in part, because officers who are escorting many prisoners in the community – to court appearances, hospital visits and other forays out of prison – now carry handguns. If an escort involves two guards, at least one is equipped with a handgun,in most cases. You can now see federal prison guards sitting in Canadian courtrooms with sidearms, a relatively new practice.
If Corrections can’t find more recruits who can pass the firearms testing, or teach them how to shoot straight, how will it hit its hiring targets? If it stumbles in its bid to hit those recruiting numbers, how will it staff the millions of dollars worth of new prison units that are now in the planning or construction phases?