Before B.C.’s newest maximum-security prison welcomed its first inmates in 2016, there was some speculation from the leader of the union representing the province’s corrections officers that the state-of-the-art facility in Oliver would ease tensions at other jails.
According to Dean Purdy, corrections spokesman for the B.C. Government Employees Union, that has not been the case at other provincial prisons — Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre included — since Okanagan Correctional Centre opened its doors in October 2016.
“I think, initially, that’s what we were hoping for,” Purdy told KTW. “But it hasn’t seemed to level out the violence.”
In fact, Purdy said, violent incidents have only increased. He said KRCC recorded a record number of inmate-on-staff assaults last year.
“Violence levels are on the rise at all seven of our maximum-security jails and KRCC is no different,” Purdy said. “In 2018, we had 27 assaults on staff and that’s an all-time high.”
Purdy said those numbers are based on BCGEU data. B.C.’s Corrections Branch keeps its own statistics, but government numbers compiled for the first half of 2018 show only two assaults officially recorded.
According to Purdy, the union describes an assault as any incident involving violence — ranging from a shove or a strike to spitting, punching and throwing human waste.
“The severity is all over the map,” he said.
“It’s anything from being spit on right up to a full-blown sucker punch or having a cup of feces thrown on you. Things are definitely heating up. Working at a maximum-security jail is already one of the most stressful jobs out there, especially when things are escalating like this.”
According to Purdy, the solution is increased funding and staffing. The union would like to see two correctional officers per living unit when there are 20 or more inmates.
KRCC’s ratio ranges between 1 to 36 and 1 to 40 inmates, Purdy said, with ratios at newer facilities like Okanagan Correctional Centre reaching 1 to 72.