A correctional officer at the Edmonton Remand Centre is being treated for a concussion after being struck in the face by an inmate last week.
The guards’ union says two other officers were attacked by inmates at the Calgary Correctional Centre.
In a news release Monday, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said the assaults highlight the risks facing correctional peace officers.
The AUPE said the first incident happened on Wednesday at the Edmonton Remand Centre. An officer was supervising inmates in the closed circuit TV area when “he was struck in an unprovoked attack,” the union said. Another officer working nearby was able to help. The AUPE said the officer was taken to hospital and was still recovering on Monday.
Alberta Justice and Solicitor General confirmed a correctional peace officer at the Remand was struck in the face by an inmate on Nov. 15. The officer was escorting the inmate to a holding cell when he was hit, lost his balance and fell.
“After a brief struggle, other very close officers gained control of the inmate and retrained him,” an Alberta Justice spokesperson explained in an email to Global News.
The spokesperson said the inmate refused medical assessment and did not appear to be injured.
The officer had a cut inside his mouth and facial swelling. At the hospital, it was determined he had “a mild concussion,” Alberta Justice said. He is being treated according to the concussion protocol.
Then, on Friday, the union said two correctional peace officers at the Calgary Correctional Centre were assaulted: one was struck in the head and both were taken to hospital for treatment.
In an email to Global News, Alberta Justice confirmed two staff members at the centre were taken to hospital after an assault in an inmate’s cell. The two employees brought cleaning supplies to a cell and asked him to clean up spilled juice.
“The inmate became verbally and physically assaultive before being restrained by staff,” Alberta Justice said, adding the inmate was assessed and was not injured. After being taken to hospital, one staff member was determined to be OK. The other’s left arm was injured while restraining the inmate.
Alberta Justice said there was also an altercation involving several inmates at the Calgary Remand Centre on Nov. 20 during lunchtime.
“Homemade weapons were used and inmate injuries were assessed and treated for the most part by onsite medical staff, with one inmate taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”
The spokesperson said no staff members were hurt.
The union — which represents provincial correctional officers — is pushing for better safety measures for guards across Alberta.
“Our thoughts go out to the members who were injured,” AUPE president Guy Smith said. “Every worker deserves to come home from their job safe at the end of the day. These assaults could have easily been much more serious or even fatal.
“Our Local 003 members often find themselves in increasingly complex and dangerous circumstances while they’re on the job. It’s imperative that the government of Alberta, as their employer, does more to ensure their safety and security while our members are performing their duties at correctional facilities in the province,” Smith added.
“Occupational health and safety has long been a concern of these members, particularly at the Edmonton Remand Centre, the province’s biggest facility. It was the reason we saw correctional officers walk off the job in 2013 after the government of the day refused to properly address their concerns.”
Tuesday’s email from Alberta Justice also included this statement:
“Incidents that involve staff safety and well-being are taken seriously. Along with assessing staff for any injuries and ensuring they receive medical treatment, occupational health and safety representatives are contacted, as is the union. Support through the employee assistance program is offered, as are peer support services. Staff safety is a priority, and we’ll continue to work with staff to help keep them safe.
“Correctional centres, by their nature, can be a difficult, sometimes volatile environment to work in. Correctional peace officers do not have an easy job. They are trained professionals who receive ongoing training as part of helping to keep themselves, the public and offenders safe. As part of our commitment to increasing safety, a $500,000 inmate body scanner was purchased for the Edmonton Remand Centre and is being evaluated to see how well it detects and prevents contraband, including weapons and drugs, from getting into centres.
“Additionally, police are called to investigate all incidents of alleged assaults for possible criminal prosecution. Internal incident reviews and debriefs are also conducted, as part of determining if the incident could have been prevented and if there are other learnings that can be applied in the future to help keep the centres safe. When incidents happen, correctional peace officers move quickly and professionally to control the situation and prevent more serious injuries from occurring. This speaks to the professionalism and training of the officers.”