BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – No one was hurt but there is extensive damage after at least 10 inmates set fires, destroyed equipment, and went wild for six hours at the Burnaby Youth Detention Centre overnight.
The riot broke out around 8:30 p.m.
Dean Purdy speaks for prison guards. He’s chair of Correctional and Sheriff Services with the BC Government Employees Union.
“Several youth inmates in a living unit started a riot, smashing microwaves, tables, windows, sprinkler heads and more,” explains Purdy.
He says they then made their way to the staff station, breaking into the room between the living units. They smashed the officers’ station, computers, desks, and walls. After that, rioters made their way to the next living unit, causing more damage — including a flood and several fires.
The police emergency response team was called in around 2:30 am to regain control of the living unit.
Purdy notes officers got out without any injuries. “The officers working in the two living units were safely pulled out of… what was a very serious situation.”
“The inmates were trying to attack the officers. So, it was good that they… pulled themselves out of there,” he tells us.
“Inside all of our correctional centres, there are living units — you have a kitchen area where there’ll be tables set up — but on the outside, there are secure cells. This was a time of the day when the inmates are secured inside the living unit, but they are allowed to roam around the living unit… The officers who are responsible for those living units work in a station that’s raised up above there, in a secure office… They sensed something was going to happen and they were able to get out of there.”
Listen: Anchors John Ackermann and Amanda Wawryk speak with Dean Purdy
Purdy tells us this riot comes as no surprise to them, given their staff’s workload. “Just over a year ago, they closed the Victoria youth custody centre and moved all those inmates to Burnaby. We said that violence would increase and we’ve seen that over the last year and a half with an increase in staff assaults and inmate violence.”
Purdy says tensions are high in the centre, and they are looking at whether “management decisions” earlier in the day were a contributing factor to this incident.
“With more and more inmates with mental illness and also inmates affiliated with gangs, it’s making it very difficult to manage the inmate population in there,” he adds.
NEWS 1130 has received a statement from the Ministry of Children and Families, saying the safety of staff and residents at the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre is “top priority.”
It acknowledges the riot but points out there were no injuries to residents, staff, or police — and that youth were contained within the facility at all times. The ministry adds all youth are safe and accounted for.
Click here to read a response from the province.