‘This has stung us big time’
Things may have calmed down at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) since last month’s violent attack on an inmate, but corrections officers are still boiling that no one in management has been reprimanded for it.
“We were told by government that once an internal investigation was completed, someone would be held accountable, but no one ever did,” a corrections officer told The Telegram.
Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Forest Road in St. John’s. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
“And we’re definitely not happy about that.”
The violent brawl was said to have been an orchestrated assault on accused murderer Kenny Green.
It happened Feb. 9 at the facility’s chapel, where several inmates had gathered for the weekly Sunday service. A group of them was said to have attacked Green with homemade weapons.
A number of inmates were involved in the altercation and were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, which were believed to be lacerations and stab wounds. Green was also not seriously injured.
After the incident, several corrections officers had said management had been told about the possibility of the attack happening. It angered corrections officers when management allowed the service to happen, despite the risk.
“They knew it was going to happen, but did nothing to prevent it,” the officer said. “They didn’t cancel the service, didn’t call in extra staff. And because of that, they put the safety of the staff and inmates at jeopardy.”
The officers expected the justice department to come down hard on management for jeopardizing lives with their poor decision-making.
Instead, the officer said, they decided discipline wasn’t necessary. In a recent meeting with government officials, union members and management, he said, all were told there would be no accountability.
“They said they would treat it as a learning experience,” the officer said. “That’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s unfair.”
The officer said the staff was upset because they say corrections officers are reprimanded for far less serious things.
“Staff are disciplined for swearing at inmates, for not wearing our hat or tie, not doing our counts or visual checks,” the officer said.
“Nothing of this nature holds a candle to what happened in the chapel.
“Bottom line is we had inmates and staff who could have been killed and no one is held accountable? That’s just not right.”
The officer said government treats staff and management differently.
“We really feel there’s a two-tier discipline code — one for us and one for management,” the officer said. “Discipline only exists for us.”
The officer said he was encouraged to see the government make recent positive changes for staff, such as allowing them to carry OC spray.
But the officer said morale is still low among staff because of the unfair treatment.
“We honestly thought at the end of this tunnel,” the officer said. “But after this decision on the chapel incident, we wonder if (government) cares about us at all.
“This has stung us big time.”
When The Telegram contacted the justice department for reaction, spokesman Luke Joyce said the internal review into the incident has not even yet been completed.
“Regardless, we don’t typically comment on matters related to employee discipline,” Joyce said in an email.
“The minister takes the safety of the staff and inmates in all of our correctional facilities seriously and that’s why he reached out to officers and asked them to meet with him directly to discuss any concerns they had. That’s also why he reacted quickly in addressing many of the issues that they raised and decided to implement new safety measures, including providing officers with OC (pepper) spray at all times while on duty.”