OPSEU

Several Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) correctional officers have finally been fired and or suspended. According to the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) which protects these officers, the justice system has been undermined.

OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas says “we find it gravely troubling that front-line officers are being held as the scapegoats for a broken correctional system that the government fails to address.”

Firstly, the only thing grave is the death of Adam Kargus. He was the 29 year old inmate who was beaten to death in the institution.

Secondly, I’m not sure scapegoat is the proper term for those who placed Adam with a historically violent offender. I am also unsure if scapegoat should refer to individuals who failed to perform a count at shift change and likely at other times. Five minutes may have saved a life. Coffee and kibitzing.

Thirdly, the government has failed to address issues in corrections in general and specifically at EMDC but OPSEU can’t deny the failure of their members to address issues only they are responsible for.

OPSEU has long maintained that this murder “did not happen in isolation of conditions.” I have been an inmate at EMDC. I am only familiar with one unit but I suspect they are all similar. Each cell on the unit was within screaming distance of an area the guards could safely access. Other inmates have testified to the screams of Adam Kargus but it is argued by the union that design is the issue not negligence.

Adam Kargus died on October 31 and his bloodied body was dragged across a common area to the showers where he was discovered the next day. I have been in 5 different jails and in each one I was counted every half hour. Does design interfere with arithmetic? According to OPSEU president Warren “Smokescreen” Thomas it does.

OPSEU likes to argue that 2 officers were working in a situation that required 3. My only question here is if officers took union breaks and meals? Police and fire unions have bargained for breaks but they too would be fired if they used caffeine when we need courage.

The whole situation becomes even more tragic when we consider that we are talking about a minimum level of care. The officers and administrators weren’t required to get these individuals ready for a carnival, they were required to look through a window in a door or bend an ear to an open area. Even in jail the necessities of life are a societal standard. Many of these men and women are on remand and their cases are before the courts. Many people assume guilt but I have seen innocence and as a society we have agreed that convictions and sentencing is left to an impartial judiciary and jurists. One of the systemic issues with corrections is public perception and correctional officers with unhelpful attitudes. As we have seen with Adam Kargus they can become dangerous and we as a society are culpable.

I can agree with Warren “Smokescreen” Thomas in that the correctional system is broken. What “Smokescreen” Thomas seems unable or unwilling to see is that correctional officers and managers are part of the correctional system. We need more cameras, better designs, less overcrowding and more capable staff but people, presumptions and personalities are part of the problem.

According to Dan Sidsworth who has swallowed too much OPSEU Kool-aid as well “the very people who raised concerns are being fired.” Seriously? Several have in fact been charged with much more. These individuals are not whistleblowers in need of amnesty. They have been investigated and found to be the problem not the pointers out of problems.

In response to the firing and suspensions OPSEU has brought about another lock-down at the jail through work refusal and they are threatening to have it extend throughout the province. A union becomes dysfunctional when wrongdoers and their cronies issue grievances and work to rule in the face of true grief. I fear we have lost sight of Adam Kargus and his family.

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