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Frustrated union members renew calls for changes after riot breaks out at North Fraser Pretrial Centre

Last Updated May 6, 2019 at 2:00 pm PST

File Photo. (iStock)

BCGEU members at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre are calling for changes to be made after a riot broke out on Friday

Inmates were apparently intoxicated when they began to protest the food at the centre, the BCGEU says

Emergency response teams were called in to restore order

PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – More than two-dozen inmate at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre tried to break down an entrance door Friday evening, causing a riot.

“Approximately 30 inmates refused to return to their living unit and remained in the exercise yard protesting, essentially, over an issue with the food,” Dean Purdy with the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union explained.

He notes many of the inmates were intoxicated after drinking a homemade brew, and emergency response teams were needed to restore order.

“The RCMP were called in for this as well as the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre riot squad, and also the North Fraser Pretrial Centre emergency response team was there as well,” he said.

At one point, exercise equipment was used and damaged in an attempt to break down one of the doors.

“Due to mandatory privacy laws and for security reasons, we are unable to get into specifics, however, we can confirm that an incident occurred at North Fraser Pre-Trial on Friday,” read a statement from BC Corrections. “It is BC Corrections’ number one priority to maintain a safe and secure environment.”

In the statement, BC Corrections says staff do everything they can to “maintain a safe and secure environment for inmates and staff.”

Riot and other incidents highlight the danger of the job

“All levels of violence — both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-officer — are at all-time highs for 2018 and this is continuing through 2019,” Purdy said.

When it comes to the trends, Purdy simply says his union “isn’t surprised that something like this has happened.” However, he does cite a number of concerns.

“We know that tensions are very high. Seven of our maximum security jails, like I said the violence levels are at an all-time high, and many of the ongoing incidents don’t get reported to the media. The constant inmate-on-inmate violence, assaults on correctional officers — it’s a big concern for us.”

The Union is calling for two key solutions to dealing with this situation. Firstly, members are calling for more help from WorkSafeBC. Purdy says staffing numbers also need to be addressed.

“The officer-to-inmate ratios are too high and that’s directly what’s attributable to the violence,” he said.

Purdy explains the government has been “very receptive” to the concerns raised. The Union hopes it will move in the right direction to ensure inmate populations are well managed, and safety is addressed.

While he did not say exactly what the membership would do if their concerns are not addressed, Purdy did say the union “may have to take ulterior actions,” adding his members are “frustrated” with the current situation.

-With files from Dean Recksiedler and Lauren Boothby