HMP corrections officers angry management not being held accountable for attack in chapel

Rosie Mullaley
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‘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.”

Twitter: @TelyCourt

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Recent comments

  • Seriously!!
    March 28, 2014 - 16:18

    The environment these correctional officers work in is at the very least dangerous. It is like no other job I can imagine when it comes to worker safety. Compound this with the fact the officers are unionized and management naturally are not and you begin to see why there is the inevitable two-tier system of worker accountability. It is no small surprise the higher up the ladder you go, the less accountable you have to be. It is true some of these officers receive no small slap on the wrist for what we might see as a minor workplace slip-up for a job on the outside but in an institution like this one a worker/ officer would be dragged over the coals. However, management, supervisors and superintendents have less and less to own up to. From the perspective of someone on the outside and somewhat removed from the scene it appears these guards are really complaining about something that is in large part their own doing and that they should recognize the 24hr. potential for this kind of organized violence. It seems they WERE aware of whispers of an attack on Mr. Green and the likelihood of an attack was high. Stop whining about management not being punished and wake up to the reality of your job; and if it too much for you, find another. The more bellyaching you do about "How come me and not him Whah ." the less sympathy there is from the general public. Signed, NON-union

  • Just asking
    March 28, 2014 - 15:37

    Does this mean that elected officials are only accountable to the premier?

  • Marshall Art
    March 28, 2014 - 12:51

    Correctional officers were informed, at a recent meeting with Gov't. officials and management, that there would be no accountability. Yet, the Dept. of Justice spokesman informed the Telegram that the review of the incident hasn't even been completed ?. What kind of hogwash is that ? Gov't. didn't have the gonads to hold anyone in management accountable and took the easy way out. When morale among correctional officers worsens as a result, management will wish that they had been held accountable. Gov't. is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations at the Pen and really doesn't care squat about any backlash. It's like ,' handle it, handle it'.

  • Tom
    March 28, 2014 - 11:52

    Poorly trained guards who have little or no education !!!! Why would management do anything different.

    • Marshall Art
      March 28, 2014 - 16:30

      "Poorly trained guards who have little or no education " ? How about people who make comments like that who have little or no brains ? So, you need a Ph.D and be Navy Seal trained to be a Correctional Officer at HMP ?

    • retired officer
      March 29, 2014 - 00:06

      Most officers have college and university degrees. Their training program at Holland College in Pei is 3 mths longer than the RCMP course in Regina! Many do work terms in Federal institutions as well! Get your facts straight!

  • Pepper
    March 28, 2014 - 10:32

    Absolutely dumbfounded! How on earth can no one be held responsible? If management did in fact know of something going down, and did nothing, not even allow their staff the knowledge, thus putting cos and inmates lives directly in danger. Someone on the outside is these inmates moms, dads , etc...and every co has a family to come home safely to...I'd say these people who held positions of trust with staff/ inmates/ public, should be dismissed. They obviously have no sense of safety of professional duty!

  • Me
    March 28, 2014 - 09:48

    Looks like a difficult place to work. Why would managment do nothing about an expected dangerous incident?? If staff is disciplined for minor stuff, why is mgmt not disciplined for major stuff. ??

  • retired correctional officer
    March 28, 2014 - 08:26

    Of course they knew about it! The asst. supt. and security captain were told Friday before they left. Two tiered system regarding discipline down there!