Correctional officers threatened on a daily basis are now taking a leave of absence and going on workers’ compensation.
More than one-third of the staff at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon are off the job and said to be taking care of their own health after being assaulted by prisoners.
“We have urine and feces mixed in a cup and thrown at us, we have individuals spit in our face and try to get in our mouths or in our eyes, scratching, punching,” James Bloomfield, with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said on Tuesday.
“We’ve had a couple officers attacked with pens and pencils.”
Around 55 of 130 staff are now on leave and Bloomfield is blaming changes made by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) earlier this year for the surge in violent incidents among this unpredictable prison population, mamely revisions to the way segregation operates at RPC among the 180 inmates currently serving time at the federal institution.
“When we can’t remove the individual from the area it incites the rest of the inmates on that range,” Bloomfield said.
“With nobody moving and no repercussions for these actions and nobody being de-escalated in the proper fashion we end up with continued assaults.”
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Bloomfield stressed that segregation isn’t isolation but rather an inmate is simply brought into a smaller area with less individuals and more staff so an offender can’t rile others up – ultimately ensuring everyone’s safety.
CSC had this to say in response to the allegations:
“CSC has not established a definitive link between policy changes enacted earlier this year and the number of staff who are currently on leave.
The correctional officer deployment levels that are required to ensure the safe operation of RPC are currently being met.
There have been assaults on inmates and staff at the Regional Psychiatric Centre. However, assaults on staff or inmates are subject to CSC investigations. We are unable to provide further information on ongoing investigations.
We do not tolerate violence in our institutions. Disciplinary action is taken and, criminal charges can be laid against offenders involved in violent incidents.
CSC examines each incident of violence to find out how it can better prevent and address these situations.”
Bloomfield rebutted saying the only reason the institution is getting by is they’re having to pull staff from another part of the province.
Correctional officers from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert are being brought in with limited success and the little staff they have left on site is being forced to work overtime.
“At the end of your shift you’re told you’re not going home.”
Bloomfield said burn out will likely result in higher numbers of staff on leave if something doesn’t get changed soon or he fears someone is going to get seriously injured.