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WorkSafe inspection of B.C. prisons to target workplace violence

The Mountain Institution in Agassiz, B.C. Sunday, March 30, 2008.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

B.C.'s Workers' Compensation Board has agreed to inspect all provincial correctional facilities with a focus on violence in the workplace, the union that represents prison guards says.

"This stems out of meetings we have had with senior WorkSafe officials over the last year-and-a-half," Dean Purdy, chair of the Corrections and Sheriff Services component of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, said Thursday.

"We've been informing them that more needs to be done because our corrections officers continue to be assaulted."

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The number of assaults and incidents involving prison guards has increased in recent years, Mr. Purdy said, adding that there have been 29 incidents so far this year at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre alone.

There are six maximum-security and three minimum-security provincial jails in B.C.

The BCGEU has in recent years raised concerns about overcrowding, violence and assaults against staff at the facilities.

The North Fraser Pretrial Centre was built in 1999 and designed for 300 prisoners, Mr. Purdy said, but the headcount is routinely higher.

"The count there has been as high as 690 but it routinely houses between 500 and 550 right now, so it's severely overcrowded," Mr. Purdy said.

According to the union, inspections will begin in the Lower Mainland and then roll out to other facilities.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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