A labour tribunal decision has exposed an ugly feud between Alfred Legere (inset), former warden of Nova women’s prison in Truro, Nova Scotia, and top bosses at Corrections Canada, in a case related to the controversial death of Ashley Smith, a teenage prisoner who choked herself to death in October 2007 at Grand Valley Institution, a federal prison for women in Kitchener, Ontario. Smith’s death is now the subject of a highly publicized inquest that has revealed dramatic CSC failures in the handling of a difficult inmate with serious mental health problems. Legere, who already has testified at the inquest, claims, in internal grievances he has filed, that he has been subjected to harassment, gross mismanagement and he has been scapegoated by CSC over the Smith case. Legere claims that a transfer to another prison was, in fact, a double demotion that amounted to disguised punishment. The details of Legere’s battle with his bosses appear to have been kept quiet, until now. The fight isn’t over so more details may yet emerge.
Federal Correctional Officers are sticking it to Treasury Board President Tony Clement, during nationwide information pickets today at more than 50 federal penitentiaries. Pickets are toting banners that mimic a billboard that was posted in Clement’s Ontario riding. It chides him for his apparent public support for 7,500 workers, at the same time that the government has dragged out contract talks. The prison staff have been working without a contract for three years, as of today, and they’re accusing Clement of talking out of both sides of his mouth.
I’ve been remiss in failing to update this story, first reported on Cancrime in October 2011, in which two convicts at maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary were beaten by staff. Late last year, six correctional officers pleaded guilty to the assaults. The staffers got conditional sentences and community service, for an incident that the prison service’s boss described, in an internal email, as a “significant incident” that threatened to bring the Correctional Service of Canada’s reputation into “disrepute.”
An investigation is underway into a “significant incident” at a federal prison in Ontario that threatens to bring Corrections Canada’s reputation into “disrepute,” the penitentiary service’s top official says, in an internal memo distributed to thousands of workers across the country. Cancrime obtained a copy of the memo from Don Head (inset), which does not provide specifics of the incident. Cancrime learned that police and Corrections Canada are investigating the allegation that an inmate from maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary was beaten by prison staff in retribution for an assault on a correctional officer.
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 Canada turfed from its recruit training program a Muslim woman who would have been the nation’s first hijab-wearing federal prison guard. Layla Matar (inset), a 23-year-old Ottawa, Ontario woman who was born in Lebanon, was cut after she failed the firearms portion of an eight-week course, Cancrime learned. She was removed from the program “due to [her] failure to achieve a qualifying score on the 9 mm,” according to a Jan. 20 email circulated among managers and staff at the corrections staff college in Kingston.