Inmates attack two guards at jail

Inmates attacked two guards in separate incidents at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road this week.

Dean Purdy, spokesman for the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union's Correctional and Sheriff Services section, said the latest assaults, only five days apart, underscore a crisis brewing in the overcrowded facility. He says the jail has a 40-to-one prisoner-to-guard ratio, while in 2003, the ratio was 20 to one.

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This is the 66th guard-attack incident at the Wilkinson Road facility since 2003, Purdy said. The jail, built to house 206 inmates, now has more than 370.

Purdy said in the April 9 attack, a prisoner in the unit for inmates with mental disorders allegedly punched a male guard in the face, causing his nose to bleed.

In the April 14 attack, an inmate became distraught after getting off the phone and kicked a garbage can, tipped over a fridge and knocked a file holder off a desk, injuring a guard.

The inmate was disciplined.

B.C. Corrections maintained the inmate was directing his anger at property and the injury to the guard was incidental.

Both guards were treated by the facility's in-house health unit, and finished their shifts.

Saanich police were contacted for the second incident, while internal charges were laid against the inmate in the first incident.

Purdy said the union met with former solicitor general Kash Heed, and is now preparing a report on the assaults to be forwarded to the government.

The union wants WorkSafe B.C. to look into staffing levels at the jail and work on an interim solution until more facilities can be opened.

"Our real concern is that one day, one of our officers will pay the ultimate sacrifice and get killed on the job," Purdy said.

jhatherly@tc.canwest.com

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