CALGARY - A union representing prison guards rallied in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Calgary constituency office Saturday to complain about Conservatives' crime policies.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says prison guards are on the frontline of having to deal with the effects of Harper's tough on crime agenda.

Critics say the government's move to tougher sentences for some offences will cause a boom in the inmate population.

Many guards cheered as national president Pierre Mallette stood on top of a bus and complained that overcrowding and double-bunking is leading to increased prison violence.

Mallette says the union has been trying repeatedly to meet with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, but hasn't had any success.

Toews noted in July that the number of people behind bars was 3,000 fewer than what the Correctional Service of Canada had predicted for this year.

Officials, however, have pointed out the number of people behind bars is still growing.

"It's getting grim and it's getting grimmer by the day," said Kevin Grabowsky, the union's regional president for the Prairies.

Grabowsky said the Prairies has the highest number of double-bunked prisoners, and he said that close to a third of prisoners are coming into jail as gang members. He said that means anyone who isn't a gang member is pressured to join one.

Without an increase in rehabilitation and other services, Grabowsky said the guards' goal of trying to produce inmates who won't return to jail is jeopardized.

The rally was part of a national tour Mallette has been making of the 52 federal penitentiaries across Canada. He said the union planned to distribute postcards in Harper's constituency and would continue to target Conservative MPs to make sure their constituents understand what is happening.

The government has maintained that its crime legislation will keep dangerous and repeat offenders behind bars.

It announced earlier this year it is shutting down two older prisons — Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario and the Leclerc prison north of Montreal — and scrapping any plans to build new facilities. Instead, it has promised to add 2,700 new beds to existing facilities to ease over-crowding.

Grabowsky said those new beds aren't here, yet.

"We're generally in a place right now where it's getting dangerous for officers," he said.

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  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair, right, tours the Calgary Stampede grounds with his wife Catherine in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair puts a pin in a map as he tours the Calgary Stampede grounds with his wife Catherine in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair, centre, tours the Calgary Stampede grounds with his wife Catherine, right, in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair walks away from a media scrum on the steps of old city hall in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair, centre, speaks to the media on the steps of old city hall in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair, centre, crosses Macleod Trail in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • NDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks to the media on the steps of old city hall in Calgary, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Mulcair is visiting the city and taking in the Stampede which is celebrating its 100th anniversary featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, centre, has his cowbay taken by his son Xavier, 4 years-old, while his wife Sophie Gregoire, second from left, holds daughet Ella-Grace, 3 years-old, while they attend the party's annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede.

  • Liberal leader Bob Rae, centre, and MP Justin Trudeau, left, joke with Lyall Curry, 92, while attending the party's annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen attend the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 6, 2012. The parade featured 700 horses, 26 marching bands and 12 street sweeping trucks to clean horse droppings. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede which runs for 10 days featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen, seen through the legs of a horse, attend the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 6, 2012. The parade featured 700 horses, 26 marching bands and 12 street sweeping trucks to clean horse droppings. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede which runs for 10 days featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford, right,drides a horse uring the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 6, 2012. The parade featured 700 horses, 26 marching bands and 12 street sweeping trucks to clean horse droppings. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede which runs for 10 days featuring rodeo action, chuckwagon races, a midway, agricultural exhibits and live stock competitions.

  • Liberal MP Justin Trudeau sports a cowboy hat while attending the party's annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede.

  • Liberal leader Bob Rae sports a cowboy hat while attending the party's annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede.

  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford dances the two-step with former Stampede president Dr. David Chalack at a Calgary Stampede breakfast event on Monday July 9, 2012.