(File photo)

Safety concerns surface after guard assaulted at Surrey Pretrial

BC Corrections said it happened while an officer was delivering a meal to an inmate

Safety concerns are being raised after a guard working at the Surrey Pretrial Centre was assaulted last week.

BC Corrections confirmed it happened around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2 as an officer was delivering a meal to an inmate in his cell.

The officer is “doing well, and recovering at home with the support of colleagues, friends and family,” according to BC Corrections.

While the government refused to comment on the nature of the assault, Dean Purdy with the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union said the guard “lost part of his finger. I believe that’s what happened.”

“The mental anguish that someone suffers after an assault like that alone is off the charts,” said Purdy. “And a few days after that incident at Surrey Pretrial, a jail-wide lock down occurred after a really violent inmate-on-inmate assault.”

Purdy said part of the issue at Surrey Pretrial, one of the largest jails in the province, is the ratio of inmates to guards.

“The living units at Surrey Pretrial Service Centre have higher counts of inmates in them,” he said. One correctional officer is responsible for a living unit, he explained, noting that in Surrey “up to 72 inmates can be in one living unit.”

That’s higher than many other jails in B.C., he said.

“Anytime you put more inmates in a confined space, it’s common sense and all the studies show, there’s an increase in violence…. On the safety side of things, we need to have immediate backup, so we need to have two officers in every living unit” so guards aren’t “isolated,” said Purdy.

“These are not isolated incidents and they’re continuing to occur on a regular basis,” he added.

See also: Surrey Pretrial becomes B.C.’s biggest provincial jail

Wage and retention is another problem, added Purdy, noting attrition is at 14 per cent for BC Corrections officers.

“We train new correctional officers and they’re scooped up by police and federal corrections, or they move to Alberta where they can make more money. The top rate for a corrections officer (in B.C.) is $60,000 where the average municipal police rate is $93,000, or they can go to federal and make $75,000. There’s a significant gap.”

Furthermore, B.C.’s correction officers get paid less than most of their provincial counterparts, he said.

“We’re way down the list, even behind Newfoundland. From a bargaining standpoint, we should be in the top two or three with Ontario or Alberta,” added Purdy.

That, coupled with the violence, makes retention a challenge.

“We’ve been meeting with the minister throughout the fall and it’s ongoing,” said Purdy. “We’re trying to address that attrition rate of 14 per cent.”

In an emailed statement, BC Corrections said there were only two inmates on the unit when the guard was assaulted on Jan. 2.

“With respect to ratios, due to the complex logistics of operating a correctional centre, we do not staff living units on a fixed ratio basis,” said BC Corrections. “Our model is flexible and fluid allowing for staff to be assigned to units based on comprehensive risk assessments.”

See also: Vancouver Police probe Surrey in-custody death

BC Corrections said it has a zero tolerance policy on violence and says “the safety of our staff and inmates is always our number one priority. Any time there is an incident involving violence of any kind, it is reviewed and where appropriate, reported to police, which may result in inmates being charged internally or facing criminal charges.”

In 2016, BC Corrections says it conducted an analysis of all staff assault incidents to determine where assaults are happening, how many staff and inmates were present, and where the risk to staff is highest.

BC Corrections says it has “implemented a number of actions to prevent future assaults from happening. It is also important to know that the work to keep staff and inmates safe is always ongoing through reviewing our policies and practices to prevent future incidents.”



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rooftop hatchlings ‘a nice addition’ to White Rock RCMP operations

Pair of seagull chicks hatched in ‘fenced playground’ on July 2

COVID-19: ‘Contactless’ donation drive in Surrey to help women in need

Items needed for women in shelters, transition houses in the Lower Mainland

Wanted Burnaby man arrested in White Rock

34-year-old facing 15 charges, including sexual assault

Suspect in North Delta home invasion facing attempt murder charge

Blaine Robert Jackson, 37, of no fixed address, faces six charges in relation to this incident

Drive-in movies coming to Cloverdale

Dolittle, Trolls World Tour playing one night each at rodeo grounds

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Police nab three impaired drivers in one night in Maple Ridge

Ridge Meadows RCMP served 80 impaired driving infractions in June

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Most Read

l -->