Assaults on staff at PGRCC higher than other jails
There were 70 recorded inmate-on-staff assaults at Prince George Regional Correctional Centre from 2004 to 2010, the most among the province’s four regional jails, according to BC Corrections data.
The same statistics, originally obtained by the Globe and Mail, also showed 862 incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence at PGRCC, the third most among its peers.
Since 2006, the numbers have generally been trending downward. That year saw 240 inmate-on-inmate attacks at PGRCC compared to 81 in 2010, and 18 inmate-on-staff assaults compared to four in 2010.
But Dean Purdy, who looks after correctional workers represented by the B.C. Goverment Employees’ Union, said BC Corrections implemented a new incident recording system in 2008, and, “unfortunately, the statistics that the branch has don’t mesh with ours at this point.”
He was unable to provide his union’s internal violence figures for PGRCC, but said they are higher than what the province has. And further, a statistical decline flies in the face of logic.
“If anything, the violence levels have risen,” he said.
“With prisoners incarcerated under worsening conditions, it only stands to reason that stress and agitation of inmates is high and that can only lead to increased risk of violent behaviour and deteriorating working conditions for our correctional officers.”
The 2011-12 service plan for the Ministry of Public Safety states B.C.’s nine provincial jails operate on average at 173 per cent of designed capacity.
Purdy said PGRCC was originally built in to house 164 inmates, but now routinely holds upwards of 300, while the staff-to-inmate ratio has risen over the last decade from 1:20 to 1:38.
Purdy said the problem is not only a result of an increase in the number of prisoners.
“In 2002, let’s not forget, the province closed nine jails and laid off 550 correctional officers, and now we’re feeling the effects of that.”
He stressed, however, that the union wants to work with the government to correct problems in the system.
A request for comment to PGRCC was referred to BC Corrections, although staff there did not respond to multiple requests.
The Public Safety service plan says the inmate population in nine provincial jails averages between 2,700 and 2,850, and peaked at 3,162 in August 2010. Plans are in the works to build a new 360-cell regional correctional centre in the Okanagan.
Regional correctional centres like the one in Prince George are intended to house offenders serving jail terms of under two years, but also keep remand inmates, who are awaiting trial or sentencing.