Okanagan Correctional Centre

B.C. Corrections says it has heard the call for more jail guards, but disputes the need for them.

The issue was front and centre Monday during a protest outside the Okanagan Correctional Centre hosted by the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, which represents jail guards.

The union claims the current cap of one officer per 72 inmates is set too high, putting staff at risk. Their employer disagrees.

“B.C. Corrections does not staff living units on a fixed-ratio basis and to say only one officer is supervising a living unit with 60-72 inmates does not at all reflect reality,” it said in an unsigned statement Tuesday.

“The scenario of any correctional centre being full to capacity, requiring two individuals in every cell, is extremely unlikely.”

The statement also sought to add context to the 20 inmate-on-staff assaults recorded at OCC in 2018.

“An in-depth analysis in 2016 showed that the vast majority of staff assaults occurred with just one or two inmates present or involved an individual who was locked in their cell at the time, typically a situation where that individual threw something at a staff member through the meal hatch,” the statement said.

“This demonstrates that ratios do not change inmate behaviour or prevent violence. Instead, new approaches rooted in classification and case management… are helping to effect real change for staff and the individuals in their care.”

In addition to the 20 inmate-on-staff assaults last year, OCC also saw 16 incidents of violence directed at staff, such as threats, spitting and attempted assaults, according to B.C. Corrections.

There were 126 recorded inmate-on-inmate assaults and 83 recorded incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence.

The 378-cell OCC had 307 inmates as of Monday and averaged 329 last year.