Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Three guards fired after jail beating

External review ordered at remand centre

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An external review of operations at the downtown Winnipeg Remand Centre has been ordered after three correctional officers were fired and a fourth suspended last week for assaulting an inmate, the Free Press has learned.

Greg Graceffo, assistant deputy minister of justice, said Correctional Services of Canada will examine the centre's operations once an internal review is completed. That review will look at other suspected incidents.

The Winnipeg Police Service also launched its own investigation.

Graceffo confirmed disciplinary actions have been meted out against some correctional officers for what he described as "serious mistreatment of an offender," but refused to say what action was taken.

Sources, including one familiar with the remand centre operations, said an inmate was punched several weeks ago by several correctional officers, who then tried to cover up the attack. Their dismissals and suspension were confirmed by sources.

"This is about making certain we have looked at this situation fully and completely," Graceffo said. "It's really unacceptable to have these kinds of things happen in our facility.

"We pride ourselves on having correctional staff that are professional in their duties. It is true that from time to time we have to use various degrees of force to deal with situations, but we are obliged like everybody else to use that force in a way that is proportionate to the circumstance that we are dealing with."

Graceffo said an external review will be conducted because the provincial corrections department wants to ensure the steps it has taken to deal with the incident are appropriate.

Correctional Services Canada will conduct the review, he said, because it is independent of the province but is familiar with prison settings, as it operates prisons across the country, including Manitoba's Stony Mountain.

Graceffo said it's possible other assaults of inmates have taken place at the remand centre, adding other suspected incidents are also being probed as a result of the initial investigation.

"Those investigations are underway right now and when they're concluded, if need be, the results of those investigations will also be referred to the Winnipeg Police Service."

Graceffo said an internal review of operations at the remand centre is also being carried out to determine if new procedures need to be put in place.

"We'll take the decisions that need to be taken once we have all the information we need."

Once the internal review is completed, he said, Ottawa will review what has taken place and that report will be considered for possible further changes. He didn't place a timeline for when the external review will begin.

A spokesman for the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union said it only recently learned staff at the centre had been disciplined, adding the union is still in the process of determining if the measures taken were appropriate for the alleged wrongdoing.

The MGEU said it would not comment further because police are investigating the matter.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 A3

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