BCGEU meets with officials to address escalating violence in Youth Corrections

Last week your union met with senior Youth Custody Services and Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) officials to discuss health and safety problems, and the escalating levels of violence at youth corrections facilities.

Your union requested the meeting following three serious incidents at Burnaby Youth Custody Services (BYCS): a riot on July 19, disturbance and police stand-off on August 25, and a fire on a segregation unit on September 5.

Representing your union at the meeting were:

  • Dean Purdy (vice president and chair of Corrections and Sheriff Services – Component 1)
  • Brian Campbell (Local 103 Chair Corrections and Sheriff Services - Component 1)
  • Brandon Thistle (BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety Officer).

The employer was represented at the meeting by:

  • Pam Drew (Director of Operations BYCS)
  • Lenora Angel (Executive Director of Youth Justice and Forensic Services)
  • Tim Osborne (MCFD – Strategic Human Resources – Executive Director)
  • Sonny Mangat (MCFD - Occupational Health and Safety Advisor).

Your union believes the levels of violence in youth corrections are increasing and that the type of violence is also more serious. There is a troubling lack of consequences for the youth who do act violently while in custody. This increases the likelihood that other inmates will also act out violently.

The meeting last week was productive: the employer acknowledged that serious health and safety problems exist and that concerted, corrective action needs to be taken immediately.

At the meeting we discussed many issues, including:

  • Officers must be made aware of risk assessments on every youth in custody. Delays informing staff of the behaviour and history of each youth puts staff at risk
  • Enhanced training for staff (including restraint training and scenario work such as cell extraction)
  • Managers will be more visible and involved on living units working and interacting with staff and inmates
  • Tools to protect officers (including pepper spray and restraints)
  • New procedures to ensure safety at the In-Patient Assessment Unit
  • Improvements needed on the joint Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) committee
  • The need for an updated Terms of Reference for the joint OHS committee
  • A review of the OHS program to identify any gaps. Any gaps will be closed and regular follow-up will ensure there is no backsliding
  • Steps to ensure the joint OHS committee is fully trained and functioning at a high level
  • Active involvement by union members in all aspects of incident investigations
  • Upgrades that are coming to increase the security of doors and windows at BYCS
  • Cutlery will accompany, and be removed with, meal trays. Millwork will be changed to ensure youth cannot climb within living units

Many of these safety issues have been identified in the past and have not been addressed in a meaningful way. The employer and your union have agreed to a follow-up meeting to measure the progress and improvements to ensure that health and safety risks are addressed in a timely and meaningful way in order to hold the management at the BYCS accountable for keeping Component 1 members safe and preventing violence in the workplace. We will keep you informed of developments.

Dean Purdy - vice president – Corrections and Sheriff Services – Component 1

Brian Campbell - Chair – BCGEU Local 103

Brandon Thistle - BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety Officer