Assaults on correctional officers and inmate violence at the North Fraser Pre-trial Centre (NFPC) continued over the holidays as violence inside the maximum security jails where our members work doesn’t take time off for Christmas.
The other six maximum security jails have been experiencing similar violence, not only during the holidays but over the past few years. This is an ongoing epidemic. Assaults on correctional officers are up by 39% over the last year and the total number of violent incidents, both inmate-on-officer and inmate-on-inmate, rose by 42% over that same time.
Several separate incidents of violence that occurred at the Port Coquitlam jail over the holiday period include:
• December 25 – A correctional officer had a container of feces and urine thrown on him in the segregation unit.
• December 26 – An inmate charged at and attempted to tackle an officer
• December 27 – A correctional officer was sucker-punched from behind and then punched in the face nine times by an inmate on the same unit that the altercation took place on the previous day. We have been made aware that the original threat was to stab any officer working that living unit.
On December 16th at NFPC a death occurred at the Salley Port. There is currently an investigation underway.
There are continuing safety challenges at North Fraser, given the facility was built for a capacity of 300 inmates but usually averages between 500 and 550. Double-bunking is standard and even solitary confinement is double-bunked.
The union is also in discussions with Work Safe B.C. to see what steps can be taken to ensure the safety of staff at the facility.
This is what we’ve been telling Work Safe B.C. for years and why we have rolled out our violence campaign. The officer-to-inmate ratios need to be reduced so that there is immediate support and back up for our officers inside the living units. The union has been on record stating that the current staffing practices are not adequate and simply are not safe. The current ratio of one officer to sixty inmates in one living unit at NFPC is not working. The union has offered a short term solution which can include going to a modified lock up system that reduces the amount of inmates that are allowed out of their cells at one time. In addition, the union has called for a designated living unit in Metro Vancouver to house problematic inmates.
It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe work environment, and that includes addressing violence in our prison.
You have the legal right to refuse unsafe work in article 22 of your collective agreement as well as in section 3.12 of the WCB regulations. Click on this link to view.