Correctional Officer Clears His Name After One Inmate Was Wrongly Released, Another Wrongly Jailed

Sergeant Patrick Barnes successfully challenged his suspension, arguing that clerical errors and understaffing caused the errors.


Sometimes your freedom in Ottawa jail comes down to a simple paperwork mistake, or in this case, two of them, that saw guards free one inmate by mistake and incarcerate another by accident.

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In both cases, in 2016 and 2017, only Sgt. Patrick Barnes was disciplined, although he was not actually present when a guard released an inmate by mistake, and in the case of jailing another by mistake, it was the result of some very unusual events and mistakes that others had made a week before Barnes. he got involved.

Barnes challenged his two-day suspension before the Public Service Complaints Board and recently won his case. The referee, Andrew Tremayne, ordered the jail executive to refund the sergeant’s pay and expunge disciplinary records from his file.

Barnes easily won his case, not only because of the supporting evidence, but also because the delays in his disciplinary process were “excessive and unreasonable.” The arbitrator, who practiced labor and employment law in Ottawa for 20 years, noted that Barnes did not receive a discipline letter for more than two years after the accidental release and 19 months after another inmate was wrongfully held.

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The long-standing correctional officer complaint hearing revealed institutional failures and errors in the context of an institution that is understaffed.

Barnes was the sergeant in charge of the admissions and discharges unit, known as A&D among guards and inmates. Jail records staff at the time worked “regular business hours” at an institution that operates 24/7, and the mechanism for informing A&D guards of the arrival of inmates serving intermittent sentences “was missing,” according to the June decision. . (They left the paperwork in a drawer to review when the records staff return to their regular office hours. This is no longer the process.)

In the first case, an inmate was mistakenly released in November 2016 because the remand order, either on the back of the paperwork or attached to it, went unnoticed. It was Barnes who noticed that something was not right because the inmate was not assigned the correct dormitory. But while he was completing the inmate release checklist, he was called away to take care of another matter in jail.

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Before he left, Barnes told a guard to hold him until he returned, according to his testimony.

However, the inmate was released, but voluntarily returned to jail less than 12 hours later.

In the second case, in June 2017, an inmate was booked into jail and held for around 24 hours when he should not have been.

In both cases, the jail executive claimed that Barnes did not follow proper procedures and was negligent in his duties.

Barnes argued otherwise, and the arbitrator detailed some of the events leading up to the second case, saying:

“The inmate mishandling on June 10, 2017 was the direct result of a highly unusual series of events and a cascade of errors by other staff that began more than a week before Sgt. Barnes got involved. Between institutional failings, the mistakes of others, and a constellation of events unlikely to be repeated, it is extremely difficult to see how a long overdue disciplinary response to Sgt. Barnes’ conduct in this case, when viewed in the full context of him with all the complexities and nuances of him, served every purpose,” Tremayne said in his June decision.

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If jail bosses hadn’t taken so long to address the first case, they might have prevented the second mishandling case the following year, the arbitrator said.

“It also stands to reason that if the first incident had been dealt with in a more timely manner, the second incident might not have occurred. Although the incidents were different, they both relate to the proper handling of inmates when they are admitted or released from the OCDC (Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center),” Tremayne said.

“When the employer delayed handling the first incident, it delayed addressing those systemic issues, which hurt Sgt. Barnes because he deprived him of the benefit of those changes and, more importantly, the opportunity to learn from that experience and improve his performance.”

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When the jail administration finally held a “complaint meeting” eight months after the 2016 case, it started off strangely because the deputy superintendent at the time hadn’t given Barnes a copy of the inmate’s release checklist. , which they alleged did not complete.

In fact, Barnes had to argue with his boss before he showed it to him. At the meeting, Barnes pressed the deputy superintendent for details about the allegations of what he had done wrong. The deputy superintendent had trouble explaining what Barnes had done wrong, according to the decision.

Barnes denied the allegations, noting that he was not even present when the inmate was released.

In the end, the grievance board sided with the correctional officer, and although Tremayne ordered that Barnes be reimbursed for the unpaid suspension, he ruled against awarding legal costs.

Barnes politely declined to comment when contacted on Friday.

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