The union representing BC Corrections officers says attacks against their members are on the rise. (Mitchel Lensink photo)

Bitten-off fingers, thrown excrement: B.C. prison guard assaults on the rise

Union: B.C. is only province where guards can be left alone with dozens of inmates in a living unit

It was revealed this week that a guard at Surrey’s pretrial centre joined an average of 95 others who are attacked by inmates in B.C. each year.

The union representing corrections officers said the guard “was badly beaten and lost part of a finger” during the attack on Jan. 2.

“That officer found himself in a very precarious position,” said spokesperson Dean Purdy.

He wasn’t the only one.

BC Corrections documents obtained by Black Press showed that 61 guards were attacked in the first six months of last year – about one attack every three days. If that rate continues in the next batch of statistics to come out, there would be more attacks in 2017 than in any of the past five years.

On average, 95 inmates were assaulted each year between 2012 and 2016.

Timeline Light
Infogram

“The staff are at their wit’s end,” Purdy said. “We’re really feeling it.”

Another high-profile attack happened in 2012, when an inmate at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam splashed a guard with a mixture of excrement and soup. A union representative said at the time the incident appeared to have been orchestrated by gangsters.

The North Fraser centre has seen 16 attacks in the first six months of 2017, putting it on track to match the five-year high of 33 assaults in 2012.

‘Isolated and alone’

Purdy said a big part of the problem is the guard-to-inmate ratio, which he said shot from 20 inmates per guard to 72 inmates per guard in 2002.

He said B.C. is the only province where corrections officers can be left alone with dozens of inmates in a living unit.

“Every other province in Canada in a direct supervision model – where the officer works directly in the unit for their entire shift,” Purdy said. “All have two officers.”

He wants the same in B.C. “Otherwise, you’re isolated and alone and have to wait till you receive backup.”

Corrections officers work alone in living units of up to 72 inmates, the guards’ union says. (BC Corrections photo)

BC Corrections told Black Press it was misleading to say one supervising staff member was responsible for 72 inmates.

But a spokesperson declined to say how many officers were assigned to a living unit, saying only supervisors and staff made regular, unscheduled visits and that security cameras and personal alarms allow the guards to call for help.

A statement from the organization cited its “zero tolerance policy on violence” and a 2016 analysis of all staff assaults that formed the basis for better safety policies.

The statement said some living units might have only 10 inmates. A spokesperson declined to provide population data for its correctional facilities.

Untitled dashboard
Infogram

Guards who find themselves fearing for their safety have few options to get away, Purdy said.

If they’re in their office, there are escape routes. But if they’re out on the floor, “the only place they can go is to lock themselves in a cell.”

They carry no weapons.

“[Guards] carry pepper spray, they have handcuffs and they have a personal alarm pager,” he said.

“The response can take 30 seconds to a minute and there’s a lot that can happen in 30 seconds.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fairfield computer store faces $20,000 loss to burglary

Thieves broke into EB Computers on Sunday morning

One year later, life is much different in Saanich for the Bui family

‘We still hear cars screeching at the intersection,’ says mom of Leila Bui

Man rescued from sinking boat off the coast of Sidney

Mayday call came into Coast Guard saying vessel had taken on water, BC Ferries dispatched to scene

Save-On-Foods fills up the pantry of Jeneece Place

Retailer stocks up kitchen of local facility for the fourth straight year

Four per cent of Canadian women report being sexually harassed in the workplace

One per cent of men report being sexually harassed in the workplace

Victoria Canadian Tire replaces toys stolen from Salvation Army

Children won’t have to go without toys this Christmas

READER POLL: Do you have turkey or ham for Christmas dinner?

What are you having for Christmas dinner? Canadians gobbled up 3.3 million… Continue reading

VIDEO: Newcomers join favourites in rounding out Sunfest’s amazing lineup for 2019

The Washboard Union, Cody Johnson, Mitchell Tenpenny, Aaron Goodvin: it just gets better and better

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 18, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Caretaker jailed, must pay back money after stealing $260K from elderly B.C. couple

Antonette Dizon, now 50, had been hired to provide extra care for Henry and Helen Abfalter

Sea Kings’ final flight holds special meaning for Vancouver Island family

Dozens of people turn out with family of pilot to wave farewell to Sea King helicopters

Retailers feel the squeeze of their generous return policies

Technology data tracking can clamp down on fraudulent abuse

Canadians to get low-cost data-only mobile phone plans within 90 days: CRTC

Bell, Rogers and Telus will provide plans as cheap as 250MB for $15

Vancouver Island First Nation buys limited interest in Western Forest Products

Huu-ay-aht First Nations enters into partnership with logging firm

Most Read