June 7, 2012
Feds' plan for double-bunking in prisons 'dangerous': Union
By Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau
OTTAWA - Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said some maximum-security prisoners will end up double-bunking when Kingston Penitentiary padlocks its doors in 2015.
Members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers pressed Toews after a speech in Ottawa Thursday in which he defended the government's plan to shutter the maximum-security prison in Kingston, Ont., a nearby psychiatric facility and the medium-security Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que.
"Maximum-security people will go to maximum-security cells," Toews told union members who asked where the government plans to house the Kingston Penitentiary inmates, who include notorious killers like Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams.
Asked again, Toews conceded "double-bunking will happen in appropriate circumstances."
Double-bunking is when a second bed is added to a room intended for one inmate.
Toews' spokeswoman Julie Carmichael later said double-bunking would be a temporary measure.
The union has been lobbying hard against the closures ever since the government announced the move in April.
It argues the government rushed into closing the facilities without a viable plan in place to house a combined 1,000 maximum- and medium-security inmates and severely mentally ill prisoners.
Jason Godin, the union's Ontario regional president, said double-bunking is never appropriate.
"Double-bunking raises the temperature of an institution. It becomes more unsafe for correctional officers," he said. "We're headed down an extremely dangerous road."
Toews said the government is building 2,700 new beds and adding new units to prisons close to Kingston and Leclerc.
Carmichael dismissed Godin's claims as “big public sector union boss rhetoric.”
Toews' department estimates the closures will save the government $120 million a year.
In 2010, 10% of all male federal inmates were double-bunked, according to federal corrections watchdog Howard Sapers.
Correctional Service of Canada directives state that one prisoner per cell is always preferable and that all new units should be designed with that in mind, but that double-bunking can be used in emergency situations or with special exemptions.