Guards protest B.C. prison conditions

B.C. needs more prison guards to protect against a rising number of assaults in crowded jails, their union says.

Simon Fraser University criminology professor Neil Boyd

VICTORIA – B.C. needs 150 more provincial prison guards to protect against a rising number of assaults in crowded jails with many more mentally ill inmates, according to a report commissioned by their union.

The B.C. Government Employees Union hired Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd to survey conditions in B.C. jails, where “double-bunking” since 2002 has doubled the guard to inmate ratio to 40 to one.

At North Fraser Pretrial in Port Coquitlam, where prisoners await trial, the ratio is 60 inmates per guard. Boyd said so far this year there have been 29 reports of assaults on North Fraser guards, and there have also been sharp increases in assaults at other secure facilities around the province.

According to the survey of 200 guards at B.C. facilities this spring and summer, in the past year two thirds received a credible threat of harm from an inmate. Almost 40 per cent had been hit by feces, urine, vomit or spit, and more than one in four had been physically assaulted by an inmate.

Boyd said the majority of prison violence is between inmates. But with more gang-affiliated inmates in B.C. and about one in four having a mental disorder, guards are increasingly in danger themselves as they break up fights or respond to serious injuries, suicides and homicides.

Dean Purdy, a union official and supervisor at Vancouver Island Correctional Centre, said there have been 83 assaults on guards since the facility was double-bunked in 2003.

Boyd said the facilities need more staff to operate in a “direct supervision” model, where staff and inmates are exposed to each other in “living units” rather than inmates spending most time in locked cells. The survey found most corrections officers support the modern “living units” design in secure prisons, which include Kamloops, Prince George, Vancouver Island, Fraser Regional, Surrey Pretrial and Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.

Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond said her ministry is close to announcing a new site for a 360-cell facility in the Okanagan, which it has been trying to build for several years. The ministry has $185 million in expansions planned, including another 200 corrections officers, she said.

Debating the issue with NDP public safety critic Kathy Corrigan Tuesday, Bond reminded her that a new jail was proposed for Corrigan’s Burnaby constituency, but had to be moved to Surrey after the NDP led protests against it before the 2009 election.

Just Posted

Crisis Assistance asks council for a rent break

Nearly 40 per cent of thrift store revenue is paid to the Town of Princeton

Shinedown to debut new music in Penticton

Penticton concert-goers will be the first to hear a new song from Shinedown’s sixth album

Editorial: Unplug during Earth Hour, or at any time

Earth Hour is today (Saturday, March 24) from 8:30-9:30 p.m.

Similkameen residents face long wait for bus solution

Scheduling key for Similkameen bus riders in proposed B.C. Transit Penticton to Kelowna expansion

Princeton skaters create ‘magic’ on ice

Between donations at the door, a raffle, and a 50-50 draw about $4,000 was collected.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Canadian cities hold March for our Lives events in wake of Florida shooting

Hundreds of people support the massive March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.

Health officials called after acid spill near B.C.-Alberta border leaks into creek

Tanker truck crashed south of Dawson Creek, spilling 17,000 litres of hydrochloric acid

Embattled band Hedley plays last show in B.C. before hiatus

About 3,000 tickets had sold for final performance at Kelowna’s Prospera Place

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Snowfall warning for Highway 3

Kelowna - A snowfall warning is in effect from Paulson Summit to Kootenay Pass

Cannings takes anti-South Okanagan park bill to Parliament

Petition may not hold sway, with all national and provincial parties supporting a park in some form

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Most Read