Since Jermaine Carvery escaped from custody two weeks ago, there have been at least 47 incidents of prison guards refusing to escort inmates on outside transfers in Nova Scotia.
“That is a significant number in a short period of time and I have taken the matter seriously,” said Justice Minister Cecil Clarke.
In response, the department has contracted out officers with the Halifax Regional Police to do transfers when corrections staff refuse.
“In every instance, workers are being asked to do the transfers; if they refuse to do the transfer, then support will be called in,” he said.
After the Justice Department released information about the parameters of an external audit of correctional services Wednesday, Jim Gosse, president of Local 480 with the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, and union members met with occupational health and safety representatives from the Labour Department.
Gosse said the department resolved to recommend corrections officers be equipped with batons, pepper spray and/or Tasers.
The recommendation will be coming down the pipe soon, he said, which will alleviate tension as staff wait for the results of the audit.
“Our members do not want to be refusing to perform tasks,” he said.
Liberal justice critic Michel Samson said it shouldn’t take an audit for the minister to use common sense.
“He’s looking more like a minister who’s really lost control of his department,” Samson said, noting the safety concerns of corrections staff have been ongoing for a long time and need to be addressed immediately.