TORONTO - An internal survey suggests the federal correctional service and the prisons it runs are a "toxic" place to work, with many respondents reporting acts of harassment or discrimination by co-workers and bosses.
"Unhealthy work environment within CSC (Correctional Service Canada) is an area that needs attention," the "ethical climate survey" report states.
"All these practices create a toxic work environment and must be addressed on an ongoing basis."
Almost one-third of survey participants said they were harassed at least once within the past year, with derogatory statements, quips insulting personal appearance and public put-downs chalking up the most complaints.
In this group, a majority — nearly 60 per cent — were harassed weekly or monthly, according to results from the anonymous survey last year, in which 2,200 corrections staff in positions ranging from prison guards to top office managers took part.
Roughly 20 per cent of respondents who said they were harassed cited sexually suggestive remarks or invitations, the displaying of sexist or racist images and inappropriate emails, while one in 10 reported unwanted physical contact such as touching or pinching.
Yet more than a quarter admitted they let the harassment slide without making a formal complaint, often for fear of workplace reprisal or the fact that the troubling behaviour came from their boss.
"It is worrisome that among all parties CSC employees deal with, most frequently, supervisors, others in senior positions and colleagues abused their power, discriminated and harassed others," concludes the report obtained by The Canadian Press under Access to Information.
"Many believed the harasser would be protected. Quite a few mentioned the cultural norms in their workplace that turned against those who reported harassment such as (a) code of silence, calling individuals 'rats' and 'troublemakers.'"
Respondents also highlighted discrimination as a problem in the workplace.
Results reveal that 20 per cent of participants said they faced discrimination at least once in the past year due to race, gender or other grounds. Among them, 33 per cent claimed they were treated unfairly each month, while a similar number cited discrimination on a daily or weekly basis.
And participants didn't voice much confidence that there were rules in place to prevent improper employee behaviour, offering middling responses to a question on the existence of "sufficient" measures to cut unethical conduct off at the knees.
The report notes an earlier cross-government ethics survey suggests harassment rates for corrections employees are double those of other federal bureaucrats, while discrimination was 50 per cent higher.
Corrections spokeswoman Sara Parkes said harassment complaints are not treated lightly by the prison service.
"Harassment is a serious offence and will be dealt with promptly. Responses to harassment complaints are prompt, sensitive, and administered with discretion," she said in an email.
"CSC prevents harassment and discrimination through mandatory training, increased awareness, early problem resolution, and the use of informal conflict resolution mechanisms, which include mediation," Parkes said.
The 2012 survey also found respondents lacked "common understanding and expectations" on treating offenders with basic human respect.
Kim Pate, head of prisoner advocacy group the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said better training on ethically treating inmates would also benefit corrections workers.
"An environment that protects human rights for prisoners is not just a better environment for prisoners but is also a better working environment for staff," she said.
The voluntary survey was administered online, and captured 12 per cent of the corrections workforce. The results are considered accurate plus or minus five percentage points 19 times out of 20.
The poll of workplace values follows ethics questionnaires done in 2007 and 2009. Results from those surveys — which had generally similar findings — were not acted upon at most participating correctional institutions, a subsequent audit found.
Corrections management also didn't fare well in the eyes of respondents.
When asked whether their supervisors/bosses acted ethically, respondents had neutral opinions, with the average result on the questionnaire's seven-point scale tipping neither positive or negative.
A question on whether "I have confidence in the integrity of my organization" earned a similarly indifferent score of 4.41 out of 7.
Respondents also tended not to agree or disagree when asked if their co-workers "abuse the rights of others."
The report says half of respondents also felt uncomfortable or offended at work, often from co-workers' sexist or racist jokes.
Among the possible solutions sketched out by participants were more staff training and ethical workshops to deter harassing behaviour, and a suggestion that bosses could crack down on harassment through a "zero-tolerance" policy on inappropriate acts. Half of those surveyed had sat in on ethics and values sessions.
"It appears CSC employees might apply the principles learned during harassment awareness training in their daily work to a higher extent than they do now," the report states.
Responses were generally lower for those working inside medium or maximum security prisons, while shift workers tended to have more negative views than other employees.
Markedly Bad Disguise
What these two Tennessee <a href="http://www.tennesseecriminallawyerblog.com/2009/11/men_use_permanent_marker_to_create_burglary_disguise.html" target="_hplink">would-be robbers</a> taught us by trying to "disguise" themselves by covering their face in black magic marker is that there is never, ever a good reason to apply black anything to a white face.
<a href="http://www.irishcentral.com/news/news_from_ireland/Woman-in-sumo-wrestler-suit-assaults-ex-girlfriend-after-waving-at-man-dressed-as-Snickers-bar-97262439.html" target="_hplink">This headline. That's all</a>.
Amish Buggy Chase
In a scene that sounds like more like a Monty Python sketch than an actual news item, an Amish teen led a <a href="http://www.aolnews.com/2010/07/21/amish-teen-leads-police-on-horse-and-buggy-chase/" target="_hplink">low-speed police chase on his horse and buggy</a>.
Bad news: A Florida man was pulled over and arrested after the police searched his car and found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Good news: In the process, the police found a bong that the man had been looking <i>everywhere</i> for -- <a href="http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/20/arrested-man-thanks-police-for-finding-long-lost-bong/" target="_hplink">and thanked the cops for their help.</a>
If you're anything like a woman in Sweden arrested for drunk driving, you may think you can get out of the case by <a href="http://www.thelocal.se/15320/20081030/" target="_hplink">covering up one eye to avoid double vision</a>, as she claimed in court. Unfortunately, it won't work (neither the method nor the excuse).
Take Your Child To Jail Day
There's a reason that billboards don't say, "Drink. Drive. Go To Jail. Next time, get <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/buy-dad-brain" target="_hplink">your 10-year-old son to drive instead</a>." But one Tennessee man found out the hard way that it might not be a great idea after the car crashed (everyone is fine).
You gotta hand it to a Dallas man who tried to cash a f<a href="http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/050108dnmetbillion.b623795f.html" target="_hplink">ake check for $360 billion</a>. Why not?
Drug Deal Cold Calls
When a 14-year-old Tampa Bay boy dialed the wrong number, he quickly apologized, then offered to sell the person on the other end of the line some drugs. Unfortunately for him, <a href="http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=56634" target="_hplink">that other person was a cop</a>. As Maeby Bluth might say, "That was a freebie."
Now That's Commitment To Porn
A Colorado man went to a video store and claimed that as a part of the <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/phony-porn-inspector-popped" target="_hplink">"age verification unit" of the local police department</a>, it was his duty to confiscate DVDs of pornography to ensure that all the actresses (and actors, presumably) were over 18. As foolproof as this plan was, he was arrested by the cops deployed from the Creepster Verification Unit. Apparently he had never even heard of the Internet.
But It Was Too Late
Since when was it a crime to try to resuscitate a long-dead armadillo on the road? Who knows, but a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8591303.stm" target="_hplink">drunk Pittsburgh man who tried</a> was arrested anyway.
Worst Vacation Plans Ever
Here's a great way to get arrested: 1. Commit bank fraud; receive over $200,000 in credit. 2. Flee the country. 3. <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8306032.stm" target="_hplink">Brag about your new lifestyle on Facebook.</a> 5. Accept friend request from DOJ official. 6. If you've made it this far, you don't need our help.