While corrections officers in the province wait for the results of an external review of safety procedures at jails, things may get worse, not better.
“I would never rule out job action if things escalate,” said Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.
The Justice Department yesterday announced the details of an independent audit on policies and procedures of correctional facilities in the province in response to five different incidents of escaped or mistakenly released prisoners in the last year. Findings of the audit are due to be released next fall.
Former deputy minister of public safety and policing services in Ontario, Saad Rafi, representing Deloitte, will conduct the audit.
But Jessome said the concerns of correctional staff at jails in the province can’t wait.
“We believe that incidents are going to happen, especially in the hot summer,” she said, noting that conditions are always worse in the summer, even without the prospect of double-bunked inmates and inadequate staffing.
The union met with Justice Minister Cecil Clarke yesterday afternoon to discuss the terms of the independent review and while Jessome said the minister is “very personable” and obviously concerned about the state of correctional facilities in the province, she’s worried about the timeline of the audit.
Carla Grant, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said conditions at facilities will remain status quo for the time being.
“We want a very complete and thorough audit obviously, and we figure that it might take until fall,” she said.
New Democrat justice critic Bill Estabrooks said he’s pleased the department is going ahead with an external review of procedures but is worried about the timeframe.
“By the time the minister sees it, we’re gong to be looking at Christmas before we have any of these recommendations that can be acted on,” he said.