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

“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

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.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Women’s Day is a reason to celebrate this year

International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world on March 8, but… Continue reading

Little Mittens expands service to include wildlife rescue

Little Mittens is expanding its rescue capacities to include mittens of all… Continue reading

Vehicle restrictions are in place in some backcountry areas to protect sensitive habitats

With spring on its way, residents and tourists alike might be thinking… Continue reading

Letter: Parties cannot be trusted on electoral reform

Dear Editor, Both the NDP and the Liberals have said they will… Continue reading

Business profile: Golden Consignment

Lizard cages, fish tanks, appliances, tires, tools, instruments and more; Golden Consignment… Continue reading

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Sea lion with rope wrapped around neck saved by Vancouver Aquarium

Steller sea lions are a species of special concern and some populations are endangered in parts of Alaska

Most Read