The union representing B.C.’s correctional officers says violence is rising in the province’s institutions, and staff facing growing risks as positions go unfilled.
Dean Purdy, spokesperson for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union says the ratio of correctional officers to inmates has increased too much in the last few months.
“[It’s] one officer for every 60 inmates at the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre, then you have the expansion at Surrey Pre-Trial and the new Okanagan jail in Oliver B.C., has ratios of one to 72.”
The union says the ratio in 2001 used to be one officer to 20 inmates, and Purdy says it’s just getting worse.
“Because of the challenges of the job, and the wages and a number of other things. Recruitment and retention is a big, big piece for the government.”
But he says while staffing levels are dropping, the job on the ground is actually getting harder. The union says assaults on officers increased by 39% last year.
“The number of inmates with mental health is now 30% of our population. Add in high potency drugs like fentanyl and the need for Naloxone Spray which is just rolling out,” he said.
Purdy says since workers feel like they’re getting nowhere with the Corrections Branch, they’ve met with the Workers Compensation Board and asked for safety inspections of some facilities.
The BCGEU has also been running a petition campaign since May, calling for more resources.
Purdy says two officers per 30 inmates would be acceptable at facilities.