Sherriffs in Nova Scotia will take over prisoner escorts for the time being while the Justice Department waits for the results of an external audit of correctional services.
Justice Minister Cecil Clarke responded yesterday to 14 compliance orders from the Labour Department after a health and safety review in response to safety complaints from corrections officers.
Clarke said the department will act on all 14 recommendations, but will continue to wait for the results of an external audit before considering equipping guards with batons, pepper spray or Tasers.
“The orders do not require the department to arm our correctional workers with intermediate weapons at this time,” he said.
New Democrat justice critic Bill Estabrooks said the minister is using the external audit as a stall tactic.
“The external audit is just an excuse for the minister not to move as quickly as he should,” he said.
Other critics said it doesn’t make sense for sheriffs — but not correctional officers — to carry intermediate weapons.
“It’s inexplicable as to why the minister continues to refuse to provide the arms necessary to our correctional officers to be able to do these transfers,” said Liberal justice critic Michel Samson.
Union representatives say correctional officers do the same job as sheriffs during outside escorts and should therefore carry the same equipment.
Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said the minister’s announcement means the sheriff’s service will take work away from corrections officers.
“Now they’re being penalized for refusing to do the transfers,” she said.
Since dangerous offender Jermaine Carvery escaped April 3, corrections officers in the province have refused to do more than 100 inmate transfers for safety reasons, saying they are improperly trained and lack adequate equipment.
Clarke said sherriffs already do 90 per cent of all transfers in the province.