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A federal watchdog has found the federal prison service failed to ensure a safe work environment at a Quebec penitentiary.

In a report released Thursday, public sector integrity commissioner Joe Friday says the Correctional Service took inadequate action to deal with insubordination and harassment at the Regional Mental Health Centre at the Archambault Institution.

Mr. Friday says correctional officers were emboldened to flout the rules with little or no consequence.

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In one incident, an officer abandoned his post, leaving several health-centre employees locked in their offices with inmates without anyone there to ensure their safety.

A nurse was left locked in an inmates’ sector without protection and when the officer in question returned to let the nurse out, he failed to secure the gate, allowing inmates to circulate freely.

In another incident, some correctional officers made and displayed banners with discriminatory messages that belittled and mocked the centre inmates with mental-health issues and the work of health-centre employees.

The report says the prison service took some measures to correct the behaviour, including a March 2018 plan, but serious incidents continued to happen.

Mr. Friday said he was satisfied with the Correctional Service’s response to his recommendations.

“In an inherently dangerous environment, such as a penitentiary, and in particular a facility that houses inmates with various mental-health needs, the employer must be even more vigilant in ensuring that employees are safe,” the report said.

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