Urgent Letter from USJE National President to CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly
The Union of Safety and Justice Employees has been actively working with the Correctional Service of Canada to ensure that every employee can be accommodated safely during this period of the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes all aspects of Correctional operations, including community parole, and Corcan facilities.
Unfortunately, there have been some challenges in ensuring protocols are up to date and implemented throughout the country. USJE is disappointed by these developments but remains optimistic that issues can be resolved quickly - as long as member concerns are taken seriously, and communications by CSC are strong and clear.
This is why USJE submitted a comprehensive letter to Commissioner Anne Kelly on Wednesday, March 18th at 11:30 to raise the alarm about risks to our members, and offenders. This letter resulted in some important discussion with the Commissioner and her team, and new protocols are being established.
President Stan Stapleton and Vice President David Neufeld continue to receive conflicting reports, however, from the front lines. We are liaising with Corrections on a daily basis. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair's office is also being apprised of developments and concerns.
We will keep you posted as we continue to make progress.
Ms. Anne Kelly
Correctional Service of Canada
As of Wednesday, March 18th at 11:30 a.m.
Dear Ms. Kelly:
As you know, over the last twenty-four hours, the Union of Safety of Justice has expressed its significant concerns in regards to the approach Correctional Services of Canada is taking during the pandemic.
Given that CSC frontline employees, particularly rehabilitative staff, work in diverse and dynamic environments where certain individuals are more vulnerable to contagion and are at higher risk, it is imperative that measures be put into place to protect them immediately.
As we all know, if the spread of the virus is not contained or slowed in all parts of Canada, it will exacerbate the pressures on our health care system and people will die. If the virus begins to travel throughout CSC’s federal institutions and community parole offices, there will be a tremendous burden on staff and local health care facilities, and public safety will be compromised.
To this end, an approach of ‘business as usual’ is neither appropriate or responsible at this time. If CSC employees get sick, they will need to stay out of the workplace.
Consistent direction must be given to the front line to ensure that our members are protected to the greatest extent possible. This direction must come from National Head Quarters.
USJE is very concerned about our members’ health and safety and believe that there are measures that can be put into place which will protect them, offenders and the organization.
This being said, accommodations will need to be made so that the remaining members on the front lines don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of work, and get sick themselves or burn out.
CSC must operate differently than in the past if we are going to be successful in meeting its mandate during this critical time. We are distressed that CSC has not fully come to this conclusion on its own, and that we have to go to significant lengths as a Union to insist on different protocols.
However, to move forward, USJE firmly believes the following measures must be put into place in every region, every Community Correctional Centre, Community Parole office and every institution across the county
From our perspective, while some measures have been recently adopted by CSC, they are not sufficient or are not being fully operationalized as of the time of this letter.
i. Protocols for Federal Institutions
USJE believes that CSC Institutions should go into a weekend routine for a minimum of 2 weeks. This approach should be reviewed every ten days.If the virus enters our institutions, it is only a matter of time before inmates and staff are infected due to the confined nature of an institution.
Limiting interactions to one-to-one contact with inmates should occur. Delivering programs, education, inmate training, CORCAN productions etc. should not occur for a minimum of 2 weeks.
Self-isolation is difficult in a contained environment like an institution. Expecting inmates to abide by the “2 meter rule” under the principle of “social distancing” is simply unrealistic and puts undue pressure on all staff.
Other measures to adopt:
1. Ensure that employees who have travelled are in self isolation for 14 days
2. Suspend Escorted Temporary Absences/Unescorted Temporary Absences/Work releases
3. Suspend Medically required Escorted Temporary Absences, except for emergencies or crucial necessities only
4. Suspend external group events (AA/GA/NA) with volunteers
5. Suspend all visits by volunteers and families of offenders
6. Limit contractor visits to essential work only, and ensure a two stage screening process at the front door before they are allowed in. This must be enforced. As of yesterday, March 17th, front line CSC staff were reporting that contractors were coming into at least one CSC federal institution for non-essential work.
7. Make TELEWORK available to as many CSC rehabilitative/front line staff as possible: CSC should be encouraging and supporting employees to work from home where possible. There appears to be a strong reluctance at some sites to allow telework arrangements at this time
8. Leave must be granted to employees whom are impacted by the day care and school closures
Particular Challenges for Institutional Parole Officers and other Institutional staff
Management must develop a clear plan on how telework will be implemented. Currently, individuals are being asked to request telework and discuss the request with their supervisor. The supervisor will evaluate the request and recommend it to the Warden for approval.
USJE believes that most sites are currently not doing enough to facilitate, encourage or organize such an arrangement for employees. There does not appear to be a plan to evaluate how this would be undertaken and which employees at the site would be essential to the most basic operational requirements.
There are also issues around the lack of laptops. At one site, there are only 3 laptops for approximately 12 Institutional Parole Officers. It appears that telework is being made available for Wardens, MAIs, Manager of Programs, and other middle managers. This will likely leave no laptops for other staff.
ii. Community Correctional Centres (CCCs)
Real concerns are being raised as to how contact will be managed at these sites - with offenders having unfettered access to the community. These sites have few Parole Officers and other staff on site already. If just a couple of Parole officers become sick, CSC will be in a difficult position to maintain proper contact and the supervision of offenders at our CCCs.
Telework should be offered to as many staff as possible. It is only a matter of time before the CCCs have the virus introduced via an offender or staff member. Living in extremely close proximity to each other, the likelihood is high that the virus will be transmitted through the facility in a matter of days or weeks.
Security at Community Correctional Centres is managed by Commissionaires. These are often individuals who are older and fit the description of those in our population who are at most risk of contracting the virus.
What contingency plans are in place if the Commissionaires are no longer able to provide services at these sites? CSC must give immediate consideration to the use of Correctional Officers to provide the security services.
iii. Community Parole
As of this morning, we have been encouraged by a recent CSC communication in regards to managing offenders in the community. However, ensuring that management is empowered to enforce these protocols and supports its front line staff is key.In addition to what has been communicated, consideration must be given to the following:
USJE Recommends the Following for Community Supervision Protocols:
1/ Home Visits:No need to go into the offender’s home.Home visits would involve Parole Officers driving to the offender’s home and calling the offender.The offender can come outside of the home and speak to the Parole Officer by telephone.
2/ Office Visits:These visits should not involve the offender entering the staff member’s office areas.
3/ Offenders can be spoken to through the plexi glass rather than taking the offender into the office.
Consideration should be made on how traveling to the office may expose the offender to the virus and how they could in fact pass the virus on public transit etc.If the offender comes to the office, the interview will take place outside the Parole Office in an open area (outside of a building) and social distancing will be practiced.
4/ Frequency of Contact
Assessed FOCs would require only half of the visits to be in person (as detailed above).The remaining FOC could be done via telephone.
Level I: 4x a month
2 In person visits (either office or community visit)
2 Interviews by telephone
Level II: 8x a month
4 In person visits (either office or community visit)
4 Interviews by telephone
5/ Community Assessments:
- Can be done via telephone for the next 2 weeks.
- Visit to the home could occur at a later date or in the same manner as community visits are being conducted if the release date is in close proximity.
- No programs delivered in groups for the next 2 weeks.
- Programs could be delivered one-to-one via telephone.
7/ All other Community staff:No face-to-face contact for the next 2 weeks.This can be reviewed in 10 days time.
ACLOs, ACDOs, Employment Co-ordinators can have telephone contact with offenders for the next two weeks.
8/ CORCAN operations in the Community: Should shut down for 2 weeks.This could be reviewed in 10 days time.
Clearly, on behalf of myself and my senior leadership team at the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, we are of the firm belief that we must limit face-to-face to contact as much as possible in the coming weeks in order to protect employees and offenders.
We are in unprecedented times.These unprecedented times demand that our organizations does things differently, and is nimble in its approach.
CSC must act in ways that protect the health and safety of its staff to the greatest extent possible while, at the same time, fulfilling its mandate in maintaining the safety and security of all Canadians.
USJE believes that the proposals above advance these objectives, and that if they are not implemented, CSC’s ability to fulfill its mandate is at great risk, and public safety will be compromised.
We urge you to act quickly.
Mr. Chris Aylward, President, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Mr. Dan Llindenas, Office of the Hon. Bill Blair