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A prison guard blew the whistle on jail conditions in Canada, now he could face punishment

The Ontario prison guard tweeted that an inmate had been left in a “urine/feces soaked cell,” and now he’s being told his social media use may have been “inappropriate”
July 26, 2017, 12:23pm

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An Ontario prison guard could face punitive measures and potential dismissal for blowing the whistle on the handling of an inmate placed in solitary confinement.

In a series of tweets posted in May, Chris Jackel, a long-time correctional officer of the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ont., alleged that management had been negligent in the handling of an inmate in segregation — akin to solitary confinement — who was said to be left for eight days “in urine/feces soaked cell” and “eating his own feces.”

The tweets were directed to the Ontario Ombudsman, a watchdog that oversees the provincial government; the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services; and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents the province’s prison guards.

The tweets contain graphic photos of the inmate’s feces and blood spread on the window and bed of the cell. He also claims managerial staff, recently hired to manage the use of segregation, would ask other employees for direction on what to do to help the inmate. Jackel claimed they were responded to by “shrugs” and “‘don’t know’ answers.”

Evidently, his tweets caught the attention of the government, which has been under fire for conditions inside jails, including overcrowding and the use of solitary confinement.

Read more: Canada’s prison guards warn of jail “crisis”

On Monday, Jackel tweeted a letter he received the week prior, calling him to a disciplinary meeting to discuss “your inappropriate use of social media.”

“These are confidential human resources matters between the employer and the employee,” the ministry wrote to VICE News. “It would not be appropriate to discuss the specific details publicly.”

The letter to Jackel alleges that his tweets infringed upon multiple employee policies, including the Ontario Public Services’ guidelines on social media.

Jackel also tweeted out a list of recommendations from a provincial ombudsman’s report on segregation, such as improving mental health screening for those placed in segregation, instituting a panel to oversee those placed in segregation, and to ensure that those in segregation have access to legal counsel.

Last December, the Central East Correctional Centre of Lindsay, Ont. reported that a 30-year old inmate died in segregation after suffering from schizophrenia and endured multiple injuries by staff from pepper spray and physical restraint.

On July 13, Jackel wrote in a blog post: “I find myself increasingly frustrated with either the lack of direction or the lack of foresight by our Employer. Equally frustrating are commentaries from various stakeholders calling for an absolute abolishment of segregation … Therefore, I’ve started this blog.” It is not clear whether the blog is part of his employer’s allegations of misconduct.

Jackel writes in the post that the purpose of this new blog is to “educate the public justice stakeholders as to their flawed thinking.” He says he hopes that the blog will allow the employer to see the “dysfunction within this ministry.”