EDMONTON – Two investigations are underway into allegations of workplace harassment and other misconduct involving some corrections staff at the federal maximum-security Edmonton Institution.
The Correctional Service of Canada said the probes include a criminal investigation by Edmonton police and a review of its own. Commissioner Don Head said some staff at the prison have complained of intimidation, bullying and harassment.
“I want to make it clear that such behaviour is not tolerated in our organization and that it is a priority for me and my management team to ensure employees have a positive work environment free from harassment and discrimination,” Head said in a statement Tuesday.
Details of the allegations and the police investigation were not released.
The investigations follow the firing of three employees over sexually explicit phone calls that were made last year and an independent workplace review of the prison this year.
Ivan Zinger, correctional investigator of Canada, said workplace conditions at the prison have been an ongoing concern, but he is pleased with the actions taken by the service to clean things up.
“The report that came out made it clear that the work environment was toxic,” he said in Ottawa. “The independent report said this is not going to be changed overnight. It could take years for the culture to be re-established.”
Zinger said the labour issues, including bullying and harassment, have been affecting the inmates.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the Commons Tuesday that he has asked Head to ensure that problems at the prison are contained.
The correctional service said Head recently met with staff at Edmonton Institution to encourage anyone with concerns to speak out.
“A number of employees have since come forward with first-hand experiences and allegations of staff misconduct,” the service said in a statement.
“Managers are expected to respond to any allegations in a timely and effective manner and ensure that all inappropriate behaviours are swiftly addressed.”
The union that represents federal corrections staff declined an interview request but issued a statement saying the misconduct allegations are serious.
“The union wants to clearly state that it firmly condemns all forms of harassment,” the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said.
“The union has been calling on the employer for strong actions on this major issue for a very long time.”
The Edmonton Institution, which sits on the northeastern edge of the city, can house up to 324 inmates.