CSC staffing crisis looms because recruits can’t shoot straight?

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?

» Read the confidential firearms training manual used by CSC

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9 thoughts on “CSC staffing crisis looms because recruits can’t shoot straight?

  1. I have to re-qualify with the 9mm every year. I have no problem with accuracy and I don’t think 25 meters is too far. The training program is designed jointly with the RCMP. I don’t think the population would want someone in the community that can’t shoot or manipulate a firearm properly.

  2. Odonnel:
    You raise some good points. Yes, I know that weapons training is about much more than just shooting straight. As a teen, I took weapons training courses so I could get a hunting licence at an early age. I belonged to shooting clubs where I was taught proper attitude toward and handling of weapons. I have owned and used firearms, primarily long guns, since I was young and learning to shoot at the family cottage.

    But you’re missing the point of this post and this issue. The CSC recruits are being rejected because they cannot achieve the marksmanship scores required while shooting with a 9 mm handgun. It’s not about attitude or carelessness; it’s strictly about accuracy with the weapon. Because I have inside knowledge of the people who have been rejected and the circumstances, I can tell you that many recruits are having difficulty with the 9 mm standards. I have fired handguns. It is exceedingly difficult to be accurate, at almost any distance. You probably know this if you have experience with firearms.

    CSC is putting more emphasis on use of the 9 mm, partly because CX staff are now carrying the weapon on most outside community escorts, something relatively new. There’s growing concern at CSC about the dangerousness of the inmate population, particularly young, gang-affiliated convicts. There’s fear that these are the kind of people who might plan violent escapes while they are outside of penitentiaries on escorted leaves. So CSC staff are being taught to use the 9 mm, with accuracy, if they were called on to deploy it to prevent an escape or protect life.

    I’m told by sources that most CX recruits have an excellent attitude toward weapons training but many people who otherwise seem excellent candidates to become CX are being rejected because they just can’t achieve the marksmanship standards required.

  3. One more thing…you’re exactly the ilk of self-proclaimed journalist/blogger, who would–and likely will at some point–swiftly decry the system because of “poor training” should someone ever get hurt or killed.

    But hey, you’d get readership….right?

  4. As a former CF member who is now transitioning to CSC, I can tell you that weapons handling is far more involved than just “shooting straight.”
    You can, and very bloody well, SHOULD be dismissed if you cannot safely handle a firearm, or worse, display a serious attitude about what you’re doing.
    I’ve seen so many recruits in DND take a completely immature stance to weapons training — which is why they end up being sent home.
    That, or they just genuinely don’t have the requisite skill to be firing a weapon (at any range). This is about people’s LIVES and SAFETY, not pandering to the whim of public opinion (i.,e a blogger who writes about “straight shooters.”). It is deadly serious.

    Should a medical student who can’t display the ability to correctly sanitize before an operation still be provided their GP licence?
    Should a prospective pilot, who ignores ANY pre-flight checks be allowed to progress?
    Should a paramedic who can’t correctly use his paddles still get the job?

    …all because of a “looming staffing crisis”? Sorry, but I can’t pretend to agree that one should compromise
    safety. You’re way out to lunch on this article. Well written, but you clearly have little to NO knowledge about weapons training and why it is so strict.
    It’s that simple.

  5. CX gets tons of consideration and empathy for there job all the time in the media, its the teachers, food service, institutional workers etc that are not even mentioned for there contribution to csc. and have to deal with as much if not more then the average guard. do you hear all of those workers crying over there job stress?. do your job and do it right. without prejudice CX.

  6. if 1/2 of the students in a math class failed would you blame the students ?

  7. I dont see the problem, If you can not manipulate a firearm then this is not the job for you… Lets get real, this isnt disney land, and we are not tour guides… Do you think if you apply to DND, and can’t manipulate a firearm, the media posts all sorts of warnings about shortages… Come on people!

  8. Not a bad article. However..we are Correctional Officers, not prison guards. There is a lot more to our job then “guarding” the wall.

  9. I don’t think our prison guards get enough credit for what they have to put up with on a day to day basis. I think our justice system sucks on every level too. What ever happened to bloody common sense?

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