Concerned members from your Component 1 Executive met with the Corrections Branch as well as senior Provincial Crown Counsel in Victoria. We discussed victim and community impact statements and the need to provide messaging on consistent and harsher sentencing when correctional officers are assaulted on the workplace.
This meeting comes on the heels of two brutal staff assaults where one correctional officer (CO) at the Surrey Pre-Trial Service Centre (SPSC) lost a part of his finger during the assault and another CO was violently attacked and knocked unconscious and kicked several times.
The Component 1 Executive has reached a boiling point due to the glaring inconsistencies when it comes to sentencing and the dispositions handed down by the courts on inmates who have assaulted correctional officers. One inmate received 14 months and another received a disgraceful three-month sentence for a very similar assault. We have also seen examples where one court allowed the joint BCGEU/Corrections Branch community impact statement to be submitted to the courts and where one rejected it under similar circumstances.
As one provincial judge pointed out, "prison and correctional officers are in some ways more vulnerable than police officers because they are dealing with a number of people who are concentrated in one building and they have to deal with all varieties of people, mentally ill people, drug addicts, personality disorders, gang members… They have a whole variety of people and not only do they have to protect themselves, watch out for themselves, but they have to watch out for the other prisoners."
We were able to achieve our two requests from this meeting: clarification on the process as to who and how the victim and community impact statements are written and submitted, and ensuring commitment from Crown counsel leadership that they will circulate a strong and consistent message to local Crown counsel across the province. Last year your Component 1 Executive worked with the Corrections Branch to generate a community impact statement that can be read out in the courts on behalf of our members.
Your Component 1 Executive will be attending the next Regional Crown Counsel meeting. We will be presenting on the seriousness of the assaults against correctional officers, statistics, information on how gangs impact jails, and how it impacts the working conditions inside our jails, including youth corrections. Crown Counsel will be invited to tour a Correctional Centre so they can see a correctional officer working in a "direct supervision living unit". We are hopeful this will break the stereotype that violence is an accepted part of a correctional officers' job!
Your Component 1 Executive will continue to update you.
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