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Union calls for change after correctional officer at Windsor jail stabbed

South West Detention Centre is pictured on March 15, 2024. (Dax Melmer/CBC - image credit)
South West Detention Centre is pictured on March 15, 2024. (Dax Melmer/CBC - image credit)

An officer at the South West Detention Centre (SWDC) in Windsor was attacked with a pencil, according to the union representing workers at the facility.

Katrina Digiacinto president of 135 Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), called the incident, which occurred Thursday morning around 9 a.m., a "serious staff assault."

"There was an inmate that exited his cell, as we typically have to do to escort that inmate to video court," she said.

"Upon exit of the cell, he attacked one of the officers...It was a pencil sharp enough to puncture holes in his cheek and his neck."

Digiacinto said that health-care staff responded immediately to the officer who was escorted out by ambulance.

Windsor's South West Detention Centre is shown in a photo taken on March 15, 2024.
Windsor's South West Detention Centre is shown in a photo taken on March 15, 2024.

Windsor's South West Detention Centre is shown in a photo taken on March 15, 2024. (Dax Melmer/CBC)

She says she doesn't know the prognosis as far as recovery but he received stitches at the hospital and is at home recovering today.

She said that Windsor police did attend the scene and she does expect charges to be laid.

In a written statement the Ministry of the Solicitor General said it is aware of an incident at SWDC in which a staff member was injured. A spokesperson said both police and the ministry have launched an investigation.

"Violence within provincial correctional facilities is unacceptable, and the ministry has zero tolerance when it comes to assaults or threats against staff," it read.

The Ministry of Labour was also notified of the incident and said it will follow up on the matter following the police investigation.

Graffiti has covered the walls of many cells inside the former Windsor jail.
Graffiti has covered the walls of many cells inside the former Windsor jail.

The inside of a cell at SWDC in October of 2018. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Digiacinto said that pencils are given out to inmates as part of their supplies.

"There weren't any mistakes made. Policies and procedures were followed. The staff responded, did the best they could. Just a really unfortunate event."

Minimal consequences, union says

Digiacinto said that as a front line officer, she's seen staff assaults increase over time across the province.

"There is essentially minimal consequences for inmates and their actions," she said, noting in particular, the reduced use of segregation.

"Even if they're assaultive, combative, violent, the ministry still wants us to put them in a regular unit."

She said inmates need to be held accountable for their actions and that there should be harsher punishments.

"Staff assaults are serious and they need to be treated as such... We need to stop feeling the pressure of taking them out of segregation. If their behaviour doesn't match that, that's where they should stay."

She said they do feel they have the support of management locally but regionally and province-wide they're in a more difficult position.

"A lot of our members feel... our safety is not looked at as important.... the inmates' safety is important, but not ours."