Last night, Wednesday, Sept. 3, a story appeared in the local Metro Halifax newspaper with comments from an anonymous correctional officer who works at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (CNSCF), also referred to as the Burnside Correctional Facility, or the Burnside Jail. As the union representing correctional officers, we wanted to proudly support her/his comments and acknowledge that in our experience, based on information we have received, she/he does give a fair representation of what is going on at the facility.
The CNSCF suffers from many problems, including the way the institution was built, overcrowding, and understaffing. The institution was never intended to house as many inmates as it does and it was certainly not built to handle all the inmates on remand who move in and out of the facility. On weekends, numbers can swell by over 60 inmates to far exceed capacity. Our members are safer when offender and institutional policies and procedures are being enforced and we support initiatives that ensure this happens.
We are continuing to work with the employer to improve the working conditions for our members at the CNSCF. We have a working group which includes NSGEU staff (including the Occupational Health & Safety Officer), correctional officers, and management, who meet regularly to address longstanding OHS issues. We are seeing improvement but would like this working group to make swifter progress especially given the escalating conditions at the facility. The working group is also in the process of conducting a new violence risk assessment for the correctional facility. As a result of the working group’s efforts, we are hoping to see some significant changes that will improve conditions and lower the risk of violence for both the workers and the inmates at the facility.