Political activism

On Sept 29, the NDP critic for Public Safety, Jasbir Sandhu committed to making a statement in the House of Commons on our behalf based on our actions in Ottawa last week on the Blood Samples Act.

Mr. Sandhu also invited our national president to a meeting with him, and offered a position for our president to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

The audio transcript of that hearing can be heard at: link The audio clip is approximately 2hrs long, and our President does not appear until at least an hour in.

Mr. Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the sacrifices and contributions of Canada's 7,500 correctional officers. They are here in Ottawa this week with their concerns.

 This year marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. They have worked hard to gain the recognition that correctional officers do not often receive in an environment that is usually hidden from the public view.

It is a workplace that is also becoming more dangerous. In particular, I would like to draw members' attention to the petition campaign that correctional officers launched this week to support their call for action on issues of workers being exposed to HIV and hepatitis C.

I am very concerned about their workplace safety. In closing, I hope all members will join me in a salute to the work and courage of correctional officers, and I hope we can work together to ensure a safer working environment for their members
Newpaper coverage

Smugglers get creative to put drugs into prison Dead birds, tennis balls among tools


 Smugglers continue to find novel ways to get drugs to Canada's federal inmates, including launching tennis balls - even dead birds - filled with contraband over perimeter fences, a parliamentary committee heard Thursday.

 In some cases, outsiders shoot arrows over prison walls with drugs stuffed in their shafts or taped around them, while in other instances drugs will be delivered using old-fashioned slingshots, said Don Head, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada."We still have a lot of challenges," Head said. "As we put our time and energy to choke off the drug supply at one spot, people become quite innovative at looking at how to get drugs in."

Thursday's hearing was the first in a series of meetings the House of Commons public safety committee plans to hold to study how drugs and booze get into the prison system and how they affect the rehabilitation of offenders and the safety of correctional officials.

 Last year, there were 1,700 drug seizures in federal institutions, the committee heard. About 80 per cent of convicted offenders arrive in prisons with a history of substance abuse.Head testified that contraband is not only being sent over fences, but being smuggled into prisons by visitors, who conceal drugs in body cavities and other places, including in babies' diapers.Inmates have been known to pay between $200 and $2,000 just for a pouch of tobacco.

 A very small number of prison staff, including correctional officers, food service workers and psychologists, have also been caught smuggling drugs.There were 12 such cases in the past year, resulting in dismissals, he said.Head said in 2008 that the federal government provided the agency with $122 million over five years to detect and thwart drug smuggling. That money has helped to increase the number of drug-sniffing dog teams - there will be 100 across the country by the end of the year - and allowed prisons to install thermal-imaging and infrared technology to help detect people sneaking up to prison grounds.The percentage of inmates testing positive for drugs in random urine tests has dropped from 11 per cent to about 7.5 per cent - a positive sign, Head said.

But Pierre Mallette, head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, testified that while new tools have made it more difficult for drugs to get into prisons, there remains a thriving "underground economy" controlled by money-driven inmates who have affiliations to organized crime."You can have all the equipment you want, but there are people inside there that want to make money," he said.

The Provinc