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.

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

Just Posted

Reincarnation, baby! Surrey singer and husband celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

South Surrey’s Rialto Theatre shutters after 200% rent increase imposed

Owner says he’s devastated by the closure of the 26-year-old business

Surrey’s Johnston Heights reporting COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Racist, homophobic graffiti prominent in downtown Maple Ridge

City councillors up late removing hateful message

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

Most Read