MEDIA RELEASE: Lowering Hiring Standards for Corrections Officers Not the Answer

Dartmouth – Recruiting new staff to work in corrections is a challenge but lowering hiring qualifications is not the answer, says NSGEU First Vice President Hugh Gillis.

“New recruits are entering the profession with the best of intentions and want to take on the challenge of working in a very demanding and stressful workplace,” said Gillis. “But they are being set up to fail because of the lack of training, qualifications, and support they get which has created a revolving door of staff coming and then leaving putting staff and inmates at risk of injury or even death.”

This week the Canadian Press reported on an individual who was found dead in their cell as they awaited trial. The media reported on letters the individual wrote to his wife that described inhumane and intolerable living conditions. The individual later committed suicide in his cell. This followed a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling that ruled lockdowns at the facility due to short staffing were illegal.

In the past, Nova Scotia required applicants to have completed a year long accredited corrections program that included on site work terms. Today, applicants only require a high school diploma and two years of related experience. Among the equivalency options for new staff are five years of continuous employment in an unrelated field and an 8-week training course before being assigned to a correctional facility.

“As a union representing these correctional officers, we want to ask the Minister a question,” said Gillis. “How confident is the Minister that the lowering of qualifications is properly preparing these individuals for what they are going to be facing on their first shift?”

An increasing number of staff are leaving work traumatized and are living with increased anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

“The courts have ruled that leaving inmates locked down for 22 hours a day is illegal and is having dangerous results for inmates and staff,” said Gillis. “If staff aren’t safe, then no one is safe.”

A similar job in a federal jail requires post-secondary education in correctional services, police studies, or criminology.

“The Department of Justice says the issue is too many officers being off sick or injured,” said Gillis. “But it’s the working conditions that are creating these absences. The reality is there are not enough qualified corrections officers in our correctional facilities and people’s safety is at risk. It’s been weeks since the Supreme Court ruling, and we have heard nothing from the Minister. When will the Minister address this crisis in our corrections facilities? These are hard working women and men putting their health and safety on the line. Surrounding them with new staff who are not properly trained and supported by the department is not a solution and only creates more trauma for those in the facility.”


The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents nearly 36,000 workers who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President Sandra Mullen, please contact:

Lucas Wide, NSGEU Communications Officer,
902-483-0662 (cell)

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