Assaults on correctional officers are up by 39 per cent over the last year, and the total number of violent incidents, both inmate-on-officer and inmate-on-inmate, rose by 42 per cent over that same time.
Vancouver (05 Jan. 2017) — As part of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) campaign against violence in prisons, the union is highlighting several incidents that took place over the holiday season.
Assaults on correctional officers and inmate violence at the North Fraser Pre-trial Centre (NFPC) continued over the holidays because violence inside the maximum security jails where BCGEU/NUPGE members work doesn't take time off.
Despite investigation into death, violence against correctional workers continues
The other 6 maximum security jails have been experiencing similar violence, not only during the holidays but over the past few years, says BCGEU/NUPGE. Assaults on correctional officers are up by 39 per cent over the last year, and the total number of violent incidents, both inmate-on-officer and inmate-on-inmate, rose by 42 per cent over that same time.
On December 16, at the NFPC, a death occurred at the Salley Port. An investigation is underway.
Several ncidents of violence that occurred at the Port Coquitlam jail over the holiday period include
- On December 25, a correctional officer had a container of feces and urine thrown on him in the segregation unit.
- On December 26, an inmate charged at and attempted to tackle an officer.
- On December 27, a correctional officer was sucker-punched from behind and then punched in the face 9 times by an inmate on the same unit where the altercation took place on the previous day. BCGEU/NUPGE has been made aware that the original threat was to stab any officer working that living unit.
Conditions not improving, BCGEU/NUPGE working with Work Safe BC to ensure worker safety
There are continuing safety challenges at North Fraser, given the facility was built for a capacity of 300 inmates but usually averages between 500 and 550. Double-bunking is standard and even solitary confinement is double-bunked.
BCGEU/NUPGE is also in discussions with Work Safe BC to see what steps can be taken to ensure the safety of staff at the facility.
According to BCGEU/NUPGE's website, it says that the union has been telling Work Safe BC for years and this is why the union has rolled out the Prison Violence Puts Us All At Risk campaign. The officer-to-inmate ratios need to be reduced so that there is immediate support and back up for officers inside the living units.
The union has been on record stating that the current staffing practices are not adequate and simply are not safe. The current ratio of one officer to sixty inmates in one living unit at NFPC is not working. The union has offered a short-term solution that can include going to a modified lock-up system that reduces the amount of inmates that are allowed out of their cells at one time. In addition, the union has called for a designated living unit in Metro Vancouver to house problematic inmates.
Right to refuse unsafe work
It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe work environment, and that includes addressing violence in prisons.
BCGEU/NUPGE correctional workers have the legal right to refuse unsafe work as found in article 22 of the collective agreement and in section 3.12 of the Workers Compensation Board regulations.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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