After two inmates were released without charges in two separate alleged attacks on corrections officers this month at Milner Ridge Correctional Centre, their union is calling on Manitoba's justice minister to act.
"I believe the minister needs to come in, he needs to step down hard and fast, and say this will not be tolerated," said Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union.
"It is an extremely dangerous tone that we're setting in our jails, both for the officers and for other inmates."
The first alleged assault occurred July 7, when an inmate attacked a corrections officer with a chair and struck him several times, Gawronsky said. "The assault was reported to RCMP within 24 hours, and the employer provided all the information of the assault to the RCMP."
On July 21, she said, the inmate was released from the jail southwest of Lac du Bonnet built to house 524 men in minimum, medium and maximum security wards.
"It is an extremely dangerous tone that we're setting in our jails, both for the officers and for other inmates." – Union president Michelle Gawronsky
The second alleged incident at Milner Ridge occurred July 15.
"My understanding is that an inmate walked up behind an officer and punched him in the side of the head — again, unprovoked," said Gawronsky. "The officer hit his head on the door and ended up having to go to hospital for medical treatment and stitches."
The assault was reported to the RCMP, she said.
"The inmate attended court in the morning of July 16 and was released that day. I guess his time had been up, he served the sentence that he was in the jail for and, up until then, the RCMP had still not picked him up" for the alleged assault on the officer the day before, the union president said.
"We are extremely relieved that no one was more seriously hurt but, two incidents in not even two weeks... You would think, when you're an inmate in jail and you're assaulting correction officers, there should be some pretty strong consequences to this," Gawronsky said.
"How they think they have the ability to do it and walk away is astounding to me."
You would think, when you're an inmate in jail and you're assaulting correction officers, there should be some pretty strong consequences to this." – Union president Michelle Gawronsky
RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel confirmed both incidents were reported to police, and said investigations are ongoing.
She said the July 15 assault was not reported until July 19; three days after the inmate was released from prison, according to Gawronsky.
A spokeswoman for Manitoba Justice explained how such incidents are handled but offered no explanation for why inmates were released from jail after the two reported assaults on corrections officers.
"When an officer is assaulted, police are notified and the facility will conduct an internal review, per standard practice," the spokeswoman said. "Information about assaults and other issues that may pose a security risk are kept in each offender’s file. This allows staff to monitor and manage individual inmates as safely and effectively as possible based on their assessed risks and in-custody history.
"Manitoba Justice conducts reviews of all serious incidents to identify where improvements can be made, especially in matters of staff safety."
Manitoba Justice Minister Cameron Friesen's office declined to comment Friday.
"We are reminding the minister that he needs to step in and he needs to correct this. He needs to come up with some solution that are going to ensure this behaviour doesn't continue," Gawronsky said.
"Correctional officers, like anyone else, have the right to expect to go home safe at the end of their shift."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.