Ombudsperson uncovers chronic inspection failure in BC provincial prisons

B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke has uncovered systemic problems in the inspection process for provincial prisons in B.C.

The ombudsperson found no prison inspections were conducted from 2001 to 2012. This contravenes the provincial Corrections Act and United Nations agreements. The ombudsperson also discovered serious shortcomings in the prison inspections that have been conducted since 2012.

“For many years now our correctional officers have witnessed deteriorating conditions in our provincial prisons. This includes overcrowding, dangerous officer to inmate ratios and increasing levels of violence,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. “We believe regular, thorough reviews by trained inspectors would have confirmed our officers' concerns and helped us make our prisons and our communities safer.”

In his recommendations, Chalke calls for a new inspection checklist that ensures a consistent and effective focus on inmate rights, and health and safety inside the prisons. He also recommends enhanced training for inspectors and adding at least one independent person to the inspection team as an interim step by October 2016.

“At a recent meeting with Mike Morris, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the minister assured us there were no health and safety problems in our provincial prisons,” said Dean Purdy, BCGEU vice president Corrections and Sheriff Services. “I believe independent inspections will show our prisons to be increasingly violent and dangerous for staff and inmates.”

The BCGEU is requesting a meeting with the ombudsperson to review his findings.

Click here to read the B.C. Ombudspersons report “Under Inspection”

Click here to read the CBC News coverage of the Ombudsperson’s report.