Minister ignores deteriorating conditions inside B.C. prisons

The BCGEU is surprised and disappointed the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has dismissed safety concerns in the provinces’ correctional centres. Responding during Question Period in the legislature today, Minister Mike Morris stated “…safety is not an issue in any of the correctional centres that we have in B.C.”

“Our union disagrees in the strongest terms,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

Corrections Officer-to-inmate ratios have climbed dramatically since 2001. Fifteen years ago, one Correctional Officer was responsible for staffing a living unit with approximately 20 inmates. Today that ratio has climbed to as high as one Correctional Officer in a living unit with 72 inmates. The new correctional centre in the Okanagan has been designed and is being built with a ratio of one officer to 72 inmates.

“As these ratios have climbed, violent assaults inside the prisons have increased. The government’s own statistics show there were 893 incidents of prisoner violence in 2014 and already 953 by the end of September 2015. Our union’s numbers indicate the levels of violence are even higher,” said Dean Purdy, BCGEU vice president Corrections and Sheriff Services – Component 1. “In 2015 there were 24 assaults on staff at Surrey Pretrial Services Centre. This year there have already been 13 assaults on staff.”

Stephanie Smith and Dean Purdy will be meeting with Minister Mike Morris later this month. “We will take this opportunity to discuss prison violence with the Minister and persuade him that prison safety is a serious issue. Our provincial prisons are increasingly violent for both the inmates and the men and women who work there,” said Smith. “The problems cannot be ignored.”