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Riot not major: Officials

The man in charge of jails says this week’s riot in Burnside was not amajor incident and, in a rare agreement, both operators and the unionsay the prison is functioning well.

The man in charge of jails says this week’s riot in Burnside was not a major incident and, in a rare agreement, both operators and the union say the prison is functioning well.

Tuesday night’s flare-up involving 17 men trashing a common room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility was not as serious as a riot that took place in April 2009, said executive director of corrections David Horner.

Last year’s event involved 59 prisoners refusing to return to their cells, lighting fires and destroying property. Eight inmates were eventually charged and the damage was pegged at $30,000.

Horner said things have gotten steadily better at Burnside.

“There’s certainly nothing wrong with the jail. We have made substantive improvements over the last couple years,” he said.

Those changes include increased training and bringing in at least 28 new staff members, he said.

“Every correctional facility has challenges. Offender populations are offender populations, it’s as simple as that,” said Horner.

In recent years the union and government have clashed over training, equipment, staffing levels and overcrowding of prisoners at Burnside. But yesterday Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union president Joan Jessome seconded many of Horner’s views.

“I agree, I think we’ve come along way at (Burnside) although there’s still work refusals and there’s still issues with safety and always will be with corrections,” said Jessome.

She cited more training and equipment as signs of improvement. But she said there are concerns about inmates not getting charged for assaults on staff members.

Jessome said “everything worked” in containing the riot and it was efficiently resolved. However, she said future riots are likely inevitable.

“It can happen. It can happen on a regular basis,” she said.

There have been other issues at the jail. In January 2009, a man died in what was deemed a homicide. This year, another man took his own life, leaving his family asking how that was able to happen.

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