The front entrance of the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre. (Google Street View)

One inmate injured after ‘major incident’ at Prince George jail

B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union says incident part of increasingly violent trend

The atmosphere inside the maximum security jail in Prince George has been tense since a “major incident” Sunday, when a group of inmates set off alarms and caused a disturbance until midnight.

The union representing jail guards said a group of 10 to 15 inmates at the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre refused to follow direction from correctional officers around 8 p.m. on Sept. 22, causing damage to different parts of the jail until a tactical team was called in to regain control.

Dean Purdy, vice-president of corrections and sheriff services for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, said at least one of the inmates sustained a minor injury, during what he believes was an inmate on inmate attack.

Purdy said correctional officers were able to move out of the area where the inmates were causing the disturbance and avoid injury.

“It was a very tense time for the correctional officers that work on the frontline at that maximum security jail,” he said of the ordeal. “They’re on pins and needles.”

BC Corrections confirmed a small group of inmates set off internal alarms at the jail and a brief lockdown followed.

“The incident saw one inmate sustain minor injuries and was quickly brought under control. As such, it would be inaccurate to characterize the incident as a riot,” a spokesperson said.

The centre, which had a count of 249 inmates on Sept. 22, remains fully operational.

BC Corrections did not release further details for security reasons.

READ MORE: Corrections officers rally to protest working conditions

Purdy said the incident is part of an increasingly violent trend at the Prince George centre and at other jails across the province, which he partially attributed to understaffing.

In 2018, he said the number of assaults on correctional officers province-wide set a record, at 124.

“Things continue to go upwards … both inmate on inmate violence and inmate on officer violence,” he said.

“I can tell you that sick time has been way up recently. They’ve been working huge amounts of overtime, which has caused many of them to get burnt out.”

Purdy said they’re having “a heck of a time” recruiting new correctional officers or retaining existing ones.

“They’re just simply not paid enough,” he said.

While he said the average wage for a top-level RCMP officer is $86,000 or $100,000 for top-level municipal police, top-level correctional officers make only $65,000 a year.

“We just can’t compete with that. It’s something we’ve raised with government, to try and improve the wages, and hopefully they’re going to look at what’s going on in corrections across the province, because you can’t keep running your operation like this.”

Purdy said the union has met with Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to request that each living unit in maximum security jails have two correctional officers.

Currently, he said only one correctional officer works in each living unit, which hold between 36 and 40 inmates.

A second officer would be able to provide immediate backup, but also “the psychological support you get from working with a coworker, especially in a situation like a maximum security jail.”

“We’re hopeful that we’re going to see a change in the way we do business soon,” he said.

READ MORE: Overcrowding, targeted violence spur protest at Saanich jail

In response, BC Corrections said Minister Farnworth meets regularly with their representatives as well as stakeholders, and staffing is frequently raised in meetings with union representatives.

“The scenario of any correctional centre being full to capacity, requiring two individuals in every cell, is extremely unlikely,” a BC Corrections statement said.

Referring to analysis conducted in 2016, BC Corrections said the majority of staff assaults occurred with one or two inmates present, or involved an inmate who was locked in their cell and threw something through the meal hatch.

“This demonstrates that ratios do not change inmate behaviour or prevent violence,” the statement said.

Instead, BC Corrections said new approaches like Right Living and Complex Needs units are leading to real change for staff as well as inmates.

Right Living units involve inmates committing to living free from violence, substances and weapons, electing a leader, and working together to build a community.

Complex Needs units provide more support and supervision for inmates who struggle with behaviours due to substance use and mental health needs.

BC Corrections also said even if one correctional officer is assigned to a unit, other officers rotate on and off, program staff and supervisors visit, and control room staff and technology, such as cameras and personal alarms, allow staff to receive help in seconds.

“As well, health care and mental health professionals, Aboriginal Liaison Workers and other service providers have frequent, regular interactions with incarcerated individuals in the living units,” the statement said.

“Our staff is our greatest resource and we are committed to supporting them and ensuring them the safest work environment possible.”



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police issued a 90-day driving ban and a 30-day vehicle impound after an impaired driver was caught at the scene of a collision involving a parked car early on Oct. 27. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Driver fails roadside screening after early morning crash in Saanich

Both cars significantly damaged after driver hits parked car around 5 a.m.

Struggling to afford rent, Sylvia Bailey is hoping to trade her love of cooking for some more affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Bailey)
Retired Victoria woman looking to cook, clean or garden in exchange for rent

Sylvia Bailey is hoping to use her love for cooking to help afford rent

Victoria police are searching for a suspect after a stabbing Monday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police searching for suspect in late-night stabbing

Victim taken to hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan Bui (left) and Kairry Nguyen at the end of the trial that found Tanessa Nikirk guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Nikirk is back in court for her sentencing hearing. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATED: Court hears letter from driver convicted of hitting Saanich girl

Leila Bui has been in a non-responsive state since she was hit in 2017

The drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Island Health opens COVID-19 testing site at UVic

As with all other sites, an appointment is needed to receive a test

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks in Georgia Strait

Pod spotted between Comox and Texada Island

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

The voting station mimicked a real voting station in Nicole Choi’s classroom at Chilliwack middle school on Oct. 22, 2020, where students had to show their ID (student cards), be checked off a list, and mark a secret ballot behind a screen. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. students choose NDP majority in mock election

More than 90,000 youth took part in school-based election process

Crew transport bus at the Trans Mountain pipeline project work site in Burnaby, March 2020. (Trans Mountain)
Check your workplace COVID-19 safety plans, Dr. Henry urges

Masks in public spaces, distance in lunchrooms for winter

B.C.’s Court of Appeal is in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judgment reserved in Surrey Six slayings appeals

Six men were killed in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007

Kelowna City Hall has been vandalized overnight. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

FILE – A woman smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Home nurse visits could play big role in reducing cannabis use, smoking in young mothers

The program, dubbed the BC Healthy Connections Project, involves public health nursing home visits

Most Read