MEDIA RELEASE: Staff Shortages Leaves Inmates In Cells Too Long Putting Corrections Officers at Risk

DARTMOUTH – NSGEU members who work in Corrections feel vindicated by a recent ruling by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge who brought attention to the critical staff shortages and recruitment and retention issues in provincial jails.

“The last few years the union has been raising concerns about the safety of Correctional Officers who are working critically short,” said NSGEU President Sandra Mullen. “These shortages put the safety of our members at risk. Leaving inmates in their cells for hours on end creates a volatile work environment that also puts staff at risk.”

Justice Peter Rosinski recently ruled that is it is illegal to lock down inmates in provincial jails because of staffing shortages. Justice Rosinski cited instances where inmates are left in their cells for up to 22 hours a day. The union has raised the issue of staff shortages publicly many times, and each time, Department of Justice leadership says they are working on it. However, the problem continues to get worse and yesterday, Justice Rosinski pulled back the curtain to highlight the risks to inmates and staff because of these shortages.

“The province has reduced qualifications in an attempt to hire more staff, however, these women and men enter a very toxic work environment and often leave quickly for better paying jobs in safer working conditions,” said Mullen. “Imagine being a new recruit and having to work short on your first shift, having to work longer hours, and trying to work with an at-risk population who have been locked in their cells for far too long. It’s a timebomb that is ready to explode – the province must do more to attract and retain more staff.”

“Why would workers put themselves at risk physically and mentally when they can get a better paying job with no risk of harm?”

The union has been working with the Department to provide support to increase recruitment. Just last week, Mullen and First Vice President Hugh Gillis, himself a Correctional Officer, attended a graduation of new officers. Fourteen of 31 new hires have been assigned to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

“The problem is that many of these new officers have not been properly prepared for what they are walking into,” said Gillis. “An inmate who has been locked in their cell for 22 hours a day and has not been fed consistently due to staff shortages is going to behave differently than one that has recreation time, received regular meals and gets their medication as prescribed. Officers are being asked to work longer and harder, with fewer resources to support them.”

The NSGEU continues to advocate for the province to raise wages, provide adequate training for officers, and protect those already on the job so they can work their shifts safely.

“Imagine being a new Correctional Officer showing up for your first day and getting assaulted and injured due to shortages: how likely are you to return the next day? This is a problem that requires less talk and immediate action. It’s only a matter of time before some one gets seriously hurt or dies,” said Gillis.


The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents nearly 37,000 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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