A correctional officer at Kent Institution was physically assaulted March 5 while attempting to verbally diffuse a tense situation between inmates.
Despite recommendations from the offending inmate’s case management team, the prison’s deputy warden reportedly made the call to release him from segregation just days before the assault occurred. The inmate had been in segregation since a violent fight with another prisoner on Feb. 24.
According to the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN), the deputy warden’s decision went against advice from the institutional parole officer, the assistant warden, interventions, the segregation correctional manager and the Security Intelligence Officers department – all of which recommended that the inmate not be returned to his unit.
UCCO-SACC-CSN has been raising concerns about the safety of correctional officers at Kent Institution since a new management team was put in place last fall.
“Currently, labour relations are extremely strained at Kent Institution because of the lack of trust and leadership,” said Pacific regional president of UCCO-SACC-CSN Derek Chin in a media release. “This worries us.”
In an email, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) communications advisor Julia Scott said CSC’s management teams have a wide range of professional experience to prepare them for roles as institution managers.
“CSC has full confidence in the management teams which are in place at Kent Institution and their ability to ensure the safety and security of the institution, staff, inmates and the public,” she said.
In August, CSC implemented revised commissioner’s directives regulating the use of administrative segregation and intervention to prevent harm.
One purpose of revised directive 709 is ensuring that segregation is “only used for the shortest period of time necessary, when there are no reasonable and safe alternatives.”
But the union says the policies’ limits on segregation are too strict and have led to more violence within Kent Institution’s walls.
“The assault that occurred Monday is a clear example of the dangerous consequences of the newly imposed designation strategy,” stated Chin. “You cannot drastically change an important and effective population management tool like segregation without having a proper procedure and plan to replace it.”
“The new changes are just not working and are threatening the security of correctional officers and inmates.”
The CSC told the Observer that the safety of inmates and staff is a top priority. “Kent Institution management and the Pacific Region as a whole will continue to work collaboratively with both staff and union partners to resolve ongoing issues to ensure the safety and security of all staff and inmates and contribute to public safety results,” Scott said.
The assault at Kent Institution follows protests last month from correctional officers hoping to bring attention to rapidly increasing incidents of violence against officers at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre. According to the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, in only the few months prior, an officer had his finger severed, another had his head stomped on and yet another was assaulted with feces thrown in her face.