Prison violence on the rise at KRCC and other jails prompts union to take action | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Prison violence on the rise at KRCC and other jails prompts union to take action

Image Credit: File photo
November 11, 2016 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - Violence in B.C. prisons has risen by nearly 40 per cent and the union representing correctional officers says it will continue to do so until understaffing is addressed.

Dean Purdy, spokesperson for the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, says a campaign has been launched to address the safety of prisoners and guards.

Purdy says the latest available data from 2014 to 2015 shows an increase in prison violence of 39 per cent across the province from the year prior. Anecdotally, he says, a 20 per cent increase could be possible from 2015 to 2016.

The BCGEU decided to meet with WorkSafeBC this past May to come up with a plan to address the violence.

"This campaign is to identify ongoing violence on correctional officers on the job," Purdy says, "specifically due to the fact that assaults on correctional officers continue to go up."

The campaign, he says, focuses on one of the biggest issues correctional officers are faced with: Understaffing. According to the BCGEU, the officer to inmate ratio in B.C. prisons ranges from 1:36 to 1:72.

KRCC has an officer to inmate ratio of 1:40.

"We’re seeing an overall increase (in violence) right across the correctional facilities," Purdy says.

The logical solution to understaffing issues would be hiring more guards, but Purdy says it's not that simple. The union has been running into issues with recruiting new employees.

He says people will be trained to be correctional officers in classes of approximately 15 people, but by the time they complete their training the class size has dwindled down.

"We’re losing correctional officers at an alarming pace," Purdy says. "It’s getting harder and harder to recruit."

Purdy says prisons have been seeing more inmates with mental health issues and more gang members. This, he says, puts guards at risk especially when a prison is understaffed.

"We already have one of the most stressful occupations," he says. "Adding everything that we’re dealing with only exasperates things."

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