Monday, April 05, 2004
Max guard defies rules with stab-proof vest
Edmonton Sun: "Corrections Canada won't let guards at maximum-security prisons wear stab-proof vests because it sends a confrontational 'signal' to prisoners, says a department spokesman. 'If you have that kind of presence symbolized by (a stab-proof vest), you're sending a signal to the prisoner that you consider him to be a dangerous person,' said Tim Krause.

'It interferes with what we call 'dynamic security.' We want staff to talk to prisoners, to see how they're doing.'

Guards disagree. Last month, the Sun reported that a guard at the Edmonton Institution - commonly referred to as the Max - had been threatened with disciplinary action several times by prison brass for wearing a self-purchased stab-proof vest on the job.

The guard, who asked not to be named, said he fully intends to wear the vest - made of a light Kevlar layer - when he next works a shift on one of the Max units later this month.

'Yes, I'm violating the rules. But management is stepping on my right to defend myself,' he said, adding guards are sometimes forced to work shifts without backup on units where homemade knives have been found.

'What am I supposed to do if something goes wrong? Stand there and say, 'Stab me - I dare ya?''

The guard said that over the past month, two more Max guards have bought vests, bringing the number of guards at the prison violating the federal equipment code to four.

Kevin Grabowsky, regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and a Max guard for 25 years, said the notion that inmates might be 'offended' by the sight of a guard wearing light armour is a 'complete crock.'

'You don't go to a max pen for stealing candy from the 7-Eleven,' he said. 'A lot of these guys are career criminals.

'The feds treat dynamic security like it's the be-all and end-all. We agree with the need to communicate with inmates. But we can't do our jobs without tools. Would you ask a cop to take his gun off before going into a domestic dispute, because someone might be offended by it? It's ludicrous.'"

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