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Overcrowding, targeted violence spur protest at Saanich jail

Correctional officers to rally outside Wilkinson jail Friday morning
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The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre at 4216 Wilkinson Rd. was cited in a recent Auditor General progress audit on correctional facilities as the worst offender in B.C. for overcrowding, with 66 per cent of inmates “double bunked” as of 2018. (Koa Barroeta photo)

Overcrowding in B.C.’s correctional facilities and targeted violence towards correctional officers has motivated a protest, set to hit the Wilkinson Road jail Friday morning.

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre at 4216 Wilkinson Rd. was cited in a recent Auditor General progress audit on correctional facilities as the worst offender in B.C. for overcrowding, with 66 per cent of inmates “double bunked” as of 2018. When the audit began in 2015, the target was half that, set at 32 per cent shared living units.

RELATED: ‘Double-bunking’ still a problem for B.C. provincial jails

“We are the only jail in Canada that has one officer with up to 72 inmates. It’s not good enough,” said Dean Purdy, BCGEU vice president, Corrections and Sheriff Services. “There is an opportunity now for the new government to bring the staff-to-inmate ratio back to manageable levels. Unless changes are made, B.C.’s correctional officers will continue to be put at high risk.”

Prior to 2001, the inmate-to-staff ratio in B.C.’s correctional facilities was capped at 20 to 1. The ratio is now as high as 72 to 1, according to the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.

RELATED: B.C. officers to protest violence against prison guards

Targeted violence towards correctional officers has been on the increase every year for the past five years.

“Prison violence continues to escalate and assaults on correctional officers have skyrocketed. These officers put their lives at risk every day and it’s just a matter of time before one of our members gets killed on the job,” said Purdy. “Inmate over-crowding and double-bunking are serious safety issues that increase the threat to staff safety, but we still haven’t seen much movement by management on this issue.”

The protest Friday is expected to run 10 a.m. to noon at the jail in Saanich.


 
keri.coles@blackpress.ca

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