Arrival of refugees strains already overcrowded correctional facilities:
BCGEU

VANCOUVER, Aug. 13 /CNW/ - The housing of up to 500 refugee claimants in Lower Mainland correctional facilities will strain an already overcrowded provincial jail system, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today, in renewing its call for the provincial government to expand correctional facilities.

"The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre already houses double the number of inmates it was designed to handle," says Dean Purdy, chair of the BCGEU's Corrections and Sheriff Services Component. "Adding hundreds more people to the facility at this time will severely test our ability to manage a safe facility, and shows once again why we need new corrections facilities to serve the needs of the justice system."

The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, which currently houses approximately 550 inmates, was designed to hold a maximum of 254. Adding more than 400 additional refugee claimants means the facility will house almost 1,000 people - nearly 4 times the number that it was designed for. The women refugees are being sent to the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, which also holds double the population it was designed to hold.

"Corrections officers are dedicated to public safety and will respond to the challenge," says Purdy. "But it means our officers will have to work even longer overtime hours than usual due to recruitment and retention issues, and presents an increased safety risk for our members and the inmate population."

Since closing nine correctional facilities in 2002-2005, the B.C. government has been dealing with significant overcrowding issues in provincial jails, and has informed the union it has no plans to build additional new facilities. Double-bunking is becoming the norm, and B.C. is already in contravention of a UN convention on housing standards for pre-trial facilities.

"As federal and provincial governments move to toughen crime laws, we can expect more inmates to move through B.C. facilities," says Purdy. "You can't expect corrections staff to handle an expanding prison population without jeopardizing public safety. New facilities are important, to protect the public and our members."

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information: For further information:

Chris Bradshaw at 604-291-9611 or 604-209-4129

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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