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

Summer Games equipment funding will have lasting impact

Cowichan 2018 will get money for rowing, swimming, triathlon and wrestling equipment

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

Chemainus Rotary Club puts a lot of time and effort into Summer Fest

Saturday’s event requires considerable planning by volunteers

Warm temperatures started early in May in Chemainus, then subsided

Current warm conditions likely to predominate now until at least September

Tuplin decides on University of the Fraser Valley

Coach happy to add Crofton dynamo to his program

VIDEO: Trades jobs the way of the future on Vancouver Island?

Hundreds of people attend Black Press Career Fair in Nanaimo

Rescued Oregon family simply unprepared for adventure, RCMP say

Agencies now helping the group of four get to their destination in Alaska

Large B.C. tree dies after possible poisoning

Police and District investigate after large chestnut tree’s rapid decline

Canucks release 2018-19 season schedule

Vancouver to face Calgary Flames on Wednesday, Oct. 3, for home opener

VIDEO: Luxury Home and Design Show opens with Italian flare

Event set to run Friday to Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver

Small new charge on BC Hydro bills goes toward new crisis fund

The new fund aims to help customers who find themselves in financial emergencies

UPDATED: Crown appeals B.C. polygamous leader’s acquittal in child bride case

James Oler had been charged with taking his underage daughter to the U.S. to marry her off

Fake cops ‘arrest’ woman, steal $6,000 in latest CRA scam

Vancouver police urge people not take calls from anyone saying they’re from the Canada Revenue Agency

Study shows increase in mountain bike tourism in B.C.

Numbers are up, way up, for bike-related visits to the province

Most Read