Skip to content

More than 100 prison guards rally in Abbotsford over increased violence

Union representing correctional officers says incidents have gone up 45%

More than 100 members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) protested in Abbotsford on Thursday (April 18) to bring attention to the increase in violence at correctional facilities.

The demonstration was held outside CSC’s Pacific regional headquarters.

John Randle, president of the UCCO’s Pacific region, told Black Press Media that in his 15 years as a correctional officer, he has never seen the violence rise to such a level.

The OCCO said in the fiscal year 2022-23, more than 9,100 violent incidents had been reported – a 45 per cent increase over the previous year.

“We had over 700 officers (across Canada) assaulted last year. That’s double what we’ve seen in previous years – and it’s getting worse,” Randle said.

“… We’re getting the calls that someone’s been assaulted, whether that be physically spit on, feces thrown in their faces … People are tired because our employer is not supporting us.”

Randle referenced a recent incident in Ontario in which an officer almost died after he was attacked on the back of his head by an inmate with a “razor blade weapon.”

RELATED: 3 inmates charged with stabbing inside Abbotsford prison

He said the increased violence can be attributed to several factors, including the loss of disciplinary segregation for inmates and more drone-delivered contraband – such as drugs and weapons – entering prisons.

Randle said CSC needs to provide the technology to stop drones and to make policy changes.

“Inmate accountability is one of the biggest things I’m here preaching today. Right now we have these inmates who are federally convicted inmates so they’ve committed a crime that the courts have said is so heinous that you’re going to federal court,” he said.

“Right now we don’t feel we have the tools to deal with them. We don’t have any accountability measures for them.”

Randle said another factor to which the union wants to bring attention is that when officers are physically or psychologically injured on the job, their pay from CSC is cut off after 130 days, and is transferred – at a lesser amount – to WorkSafeBC.

CSC spokesperson Lucinda Fraser said in a written statement that several measures are in place to protect staff from violence.

“This includes the appropriate security placement of offenders, an engagement and intervention model, drug detection and identification tools and ongoing staff training,” she said.

“Front-line correctional officers are qualified to use, and are provided with, the necessary security equipment to ensure their safety and security in institutions, including protective vests, self-defence tools, and restraint equipment.”

RELATED: Pigeon toting crystal meth in tiny backpack caught in Abbotsford prison yard

RELATED: Drugs and 3 weapons worth $32K found in inmate’s cell at Abbotsford prison

Fraser said CSC acknowledges that correctional staff have challenging jobs, including unauthorized materials being brought into facilities, which can lead to increased violence and impact rehabilitation measures.

She said CSC is working to mitigate contraband being brought into prisons through investigations, searches of inmates and their cells, and the use of ion scanners and detection dogs.

Fraser said the agency “continues to work with” CSC staff and the union to “ensure safe work environments.”

“These are issues that have our ongoing attention, vigilance, and action as we all work towards the same goal,” she said.

Among recent incidents that have occurred in Abbotsford are inmates being stabbed by other offenders and a pigeon with a small backpack transporting drugs into Pacific Institution.

In another instance, four prison guards were attacked by a female inmate who was being escorted from one cell to another at Fraser Valley Institution for Women. The woman later received an additional year in jail.

CSC operates 43 correctional institutes across Canada: six maximum security, nine medium, five minimum, 12 with multiple security levels, and 11 “clustered.”

RELATED: Convicted killer gets another year for attacking prison guards in Abbotsford

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
Read more