Already packed Fraser Regional Correctional Centre now required to house up to four times the number of inmates it was designed to accommodate.
Victoria (17 Aug. 2010) - The arrival of nearly 500 refugees in British Columbia is straining already overcrowded correctional facilities on the lower mainland, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
Renewing its call for the Campbell government to expand correctional facilities, the union says overcrowding is at such critical levels it must be addressed.
"The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre (FRCC) already houses double the number of inmates it was designed to handle," notes Dean Purdy, chair of the BCGEU’s corrections and sheriff services component. "Adding hundreds more people to the facility at this time will severely test our ability to manage a safe facility, and shows once again why we need new corrections facilities to serve the needs of the justice system."
The FRCC, which currently houses approximately 550 inmates, was designed to hold a maximum of 254 inmates. Adding more than 400 additional refugee claimants means the facility will house almost 1,000 people – nearly four times the number it was designed to accommodate, the union says.
Women refugees are being sent to the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women (ACCW), which also has double the population it was designed to hold.
"Corrections officers are dedicated to public safety and will respond to the challenge," says Purdy. "But it means our officers will have to work even longer overtime hours than usual due to recruitment and retention issues and it presents an increased safety risk for our members and the inmate population."
Since the closing of nine correctional facilities by the Campbell Liberals in 2002-2005, B.C. has been dealing with significant overcrowding issues in all remaining provincial jails.
The government has told the union it has no plans to build additional new facilities. Double-bunking is now the norm, meaning that B.C. is already in contravention of a United Nations (UN) convention on housing standards for pre-trial facilities.
"As federal and provincial governments move to toughen crime laws, we can expect more inmates to move through B.C. facilities," says Purdy. "You can’t expect corrections staff to handle an expanding prison population without jeopardizing public safety. New facilities are important, to protect the public and our members."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE