Nanaimo Council voted at last Monday’s meeting to cut four prison guard positions from Nanaimo City Jail. The Core Services Review report estimates these cuts will result in $360,000 in savings per year.
Against reducing the number of jail guards were Councillors Brennan, Pratt, Thorpe, and Mayor McKay.
For the cuts were Councillors Yoachim, Fuller, Hong, Kipp, and Bestwick.
Liability at Nanaimo City Jail
Did you know that the City of Nanaimo runs the jail at the RCMP detachment? Why wouldn’t the jail be operated only by the RCMP? The City is paying the RCMP approximately $22.5 million dollars a year, isn’t that enough to run the jail?
If someone is locked up in a jail cell and falls and breaks a leg, or gets HIV, or gets raped, or kills themselves, who gets sued?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the RCMP doesn’t want to have the liability issues that go with operating a city jail.
City of Nanaimo staff monitor the cellblock even though RCMP officers process the detainees. (Don’t forget the people being held in the City jail cellblock have not appeared before a judge.)
If someone sues for an injury, for example, the City is held liable, not the RCMP.
New City Department
In 2014 the City of Nanaimo created a new social and protective services department that would oversee police, fire, emergency planning and social planning sections. This replaced one position which was the General Manager of Community Safety & Development.
The taxpayers are now paying for two management positions instead of one:
- Manager of Police Support Services $103,000
- Manager of Police Operational Services $82,000
These pay rates are as of 2014. It costs approximately $250,000 to run the Social and Protective Services Department, not including the jail guard positions.
The City of Nanaimo takes care of the following at the City jail:
- front counter administration
- records management systems
- cellblock management
Council talks for two hours
Council members had a long discussion about whether or not to cut the staff at the Nanaimo City Jail. There were three speakers. Two spoke for keeping the jail cells staffed at their current levels and one spoke in favour of the cutbacks.
The main issue for the first two speakers was about the protection of female detainees who are minors and that female staff be required to monitor females. The Manager of Police Support Services revealed that two positions which had formerly been held by female staff have remained unfilled. Why didn’t they hire two more women to replace those who had left?
Both Councillors Pratt and Brennan argued strongly for representation of women on the jail monitoring staff.
Councillor Pratt confirmed with Staff that after these cuts, there will only be one jail guard on duty at any given time. Councillor Brennan said that she was told that this would create an unsafe work environment.
Councillor Yoachim asked about situations where the detainee was suicidal. Councillor Hong and Fuller both said that they should stop women from getting to the jail in the first place. Councillor Kipp recalled his experience using a unisex bathroom in Europe.
The City Manager of Police Support Services repeatedly referred to the detainees as ‘prisoners’ which caused Councillor Bestwick to grind his teeth.
Lessons from Kamloops
In 2013 a male jail guard pleaded guilty after watching a sexual assault in a Kamloops city jail cell he was supposed to be monitoring. He encouraged the RCMP officers on duty to watch two intoxicated female detainees ‘having sex’ via a video feed. No one intervened.
Both women had been arrested for public intoxication. They were later released from custody with no charges. One of the women was HIV positive.
Did the City of Kamloops have to compensate the victim who was exposed to HIV?
Back on the Agenda
The proposed cuts to jail guard staff will be on the agenda at the next Nanaimo Council meeting on November 7th, according to CHEK News.
This news comes after citizens tried to speak at a special 8 am Wednesday meeting of Council. The people who came to speak were concerned the jail guard cuts would come into effect immediately. Council members walked out without having heard from any members of the public after half an hour of stalling and quibbling over procedure bylaw and motions. Councillor Fuller told the Mayor “bite me” but Mayor McKay did not take the bait.