The recruitment strategy put forward by the Department of Justice has failed and staffing levels are now the worst in the history of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (CNSCF) putting Correctional Officers at risk.
“Staff are telling us that this is the worst staffing crisis they have seen in the 22 years that this facility has been in operation,” said Hugh Gillis, NSGEU 1st Vice President.
Late last week, there were just two Correctional Officers (COs) on North and West Living units which should have had a minimum of five officers on each shift. Staff have been put off work after being assaulted on the job, and the ensuing understaffing has led to increasingly problematic and violent behaviour from offenders, who are frustrated due to extended lockdowns. This, in turn, has resulted in a further increase in assaults on staff and an increase in contraband coming into the facility, as there is less time for staff to conduct proper searches.
Critically short staffing levels mean that the staff that remain on-duty are routinely being held back after 12-hour shifts and forced to work additional hours.
Part of the problem is that the province’s recruitment strategy has been a failure. Their sole-source training contract has not delivered results and simply does not adequately prepare new recruits for the realities of the work environment. This has led to the unacceptable situation of COs with six months’ experience in the workplace being expected to train new recruits, while senior staff are leaving the field altogether.
“This is a disaster,” said Gillis, “Our COs are doing everything they can to keep this facility operational, but they need immediate help.”
More frontline staff and managers are needed on the ground now to help with operational requirements. This means that the senior correctional management team who works off-site must give management and staff at the facility the resources and authority they need to recruit, retain staff, and run a safe facility.