Jail guards need Tasers when escorting some prisoners: union rep

Jail guards should be armed with Taser stun guns in certain situations when escorting prisoners outside jails, according to a representative of the guards’ union in Nova Scotia.

The guards will once again escort prisoners to various appointments starting Dec. 29, and they will be armed with pepper spray and batons, the Justice department said Thursday.

But that may not be enough, said Jim Gosse, president of local 480 of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.

“We need the proper tools to do a safe and efficient job, and I do think [Tasers are] something that ought to be considered, especially when you’re dealing with high-profile offenders,” Gosse said.

At three of the five provincial jails, correctional officers are already trained to use Tasers within the institutions, he said.

Since a high-profile escape by a prisoner being taken to hospital last spring, all prisoners have been escorted by sheriffs and police officers, and an outside audit of the adult jails system was ordered.

Training underway

The results of the audit were released Thursday, but even as it was being conducted, correctional officers were being trained to once again take over unscheduled escorts such as medical visits.

This time they will be armed, said Sean Kelly, director of corrections.

“They didn’t have batons or pepper spray available to staff conducting community escorts and that was resolved during the audit,” Kelly said.

The audit also recommended a review of staffing at the jails, and Justice Minister Cecil Clarke said Thursday that review is underway.

Gosse said he doesn’t expect to see any improvement at the jails until more staff is hired.

“From our perspective, you know, nothing has changed,” Gosse said.

“Our concerns are immediate, and we need our staffing issues addressed immediately. And until they are addressed, expect some breakdowns in the system, and unfortunately it will lead to jeopardy in public safety,” he said.

The justice minister said the union will be consulted in January. He also said he is committed to offering full-time positions to a number of part-time staff.

source: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2008/12/19/guards-tasers.html?ref=rss

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