Working conditions inside BC prisons: "depressing, frightening, appalling"

Boyd report calls for return to 20 to 1 inmate to staff ratio

VANCOUVER, Nov. 22, 2011 /CNW/ - A report released today by Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd presents a disturbing picture of British Columbia's prisons.

The report, "Correctional Officers in British Columbia 2011: Abnormal Working Conditions", is based on a survey of more than 200 correctional officers in the province.

Among the report's findings, during the past year:

  • More than 90 per cent of correctional officers had been exposed to blood, and more than 75 per cent to feces, spit and urine;
  • Two thirds had received a credible threat of harm from an inmate;
  • Almost 40 per cent had been hit by feces, urine, vomit or spit, and more than one in four had been physically assaulted by an inmate;
  • More than 80 per cent had responded to a serious injury to an inmate, and almost 20 per cent had witnessed the death of an inmate;
  • More than 90 per cent indicated their jobs have become more difficult and stressful.

These numbers come at a time when prison populations include increased numbers of mentally disordered inmates and gang involved inmates, and inmate to staff ratios as high as 60 to 1.  Prior to 2002 inmate to staff ratios were typically 20 to 1.

"Correctional officers in B.C. are significantly more likely to experience on the job violence than any other protective service worker in the province including police, security guards and firefighters. Even more troubling, the levels of violence appear to be increasing," says Boyd.

The report makes several recommendations to reverse these trends including reducing the inmate to staff ratio to pre-2002 levels and reviewing the model of direct supervision incarceration that does not work at the current staffing ratios. The report also calls on the government to address the working conditions inside B.C. prisons and improve workplace health and safety.

"Correctional officers have some of the most difficult and violent jobs in our province. The government must address in a meaningful way what is going on inside these institutions," says Boyd.  "The current system is bad for the men and women who work there, bad for the inmates we should be rehabilitating and bad for our justice system as a whole."

"This report exposes the violence and dangers our members face each and every day they report to work. It should be troubling for all British Columbians and a wake up call for our government to stop ignoring the deteriorating conditions inside our prisons," says Dean Purdy of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union, which commissioned the report.

To see the report including an executive summary visit www.bcgeu.ca

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Evan Stewart, Communications Officer (604) 220-3095

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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