It’s a work environment that has the potential to turn deadly on any given day of the week.
Correctional officers at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon are being assaulted by inmates at staggering rates and now the spokesperson for the union is speaking out before someone gets killed.
“The other day, there was an officer knocked unconscious as he was attacked from behind just sitting and doing his job at his desk,” James Bloomfield, with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said.
“Someone jumped the desk and started punching him in the head. There was a very quick response, the officers did a great job in responding to the situation but still, we’re dealing with these assaults on almost a daily basis now.”
In late November, more than one-third of 160 correctional officers at the RPC were on workers’ compensation for stress leave.
WATCH: Over one-third of Regional Psychiatric Centre Saskatoon staff on workers’ compensation
Since that time, the number of officers off work has dropped from 50 to 20 but assaults continue to climb.
“It’s just continuous assaults on staff at that site and we need some serious change immediately,” Bloomfield said.
According to Bloomfield, there is one correctional officer per 25 inmates at RPC. Approximately 180 people are serving their time at the institution and require mental-health supports.
Based on documented data that was issued to Global News, it is also one of the most dangerous places to work in the Prairie provinces.
Assault rates against staff at RPC are significantly higher than any other facility, even the Saskatchewan Penitentiary near Prince Albert, Sask.
Unlike many other institutions, RPC does not divide inmates based on security levels — maximum, medium and minimum are all mixed together and assaults are only projected to increase on site in the next year, not decline.
In 2016-17, assaults on staff using fluids/waste nearly tripled from the year previous.
“Assaults have been feces or urine thrown at us or on us,” Bloomfield added.
“The intention is always to get that in our mouth or in our face in some way.”
Correctional Service Canada (CSC) provided the following statement to Global News.
“Information regarding individual staff members falls under the Privacy Act. There are a number of factors such as illness, injury, private or personal reasons, which can contribute to staff being on leave at the Regional Psychiatric Centre.”
“The correctional officer deployment levels that are required to ensure the safe operation of RPC are currently being met.”
An inquiry about what its response was to the number of assaults taking place at RPC was not provided to Global News by late Wednesday evening.
As to why this is occurring, Bloomfield blames CSC policy changes from last summer, where inmates can no longer be placed in segregation.
To clarify, he said segregation is just considering moving an inmate to a different setting with more staff, not a cold, dark jail cell somewhere else within the facility.
“We can de-escalate them a lot quicker, it’s a lot better than leaving them on an open unit where they can now enrage the rest of the inmates on that unit.”
He has spoken twice to federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about these concerns but says nothing has been done to intervene.
“My worst fear, we’re going to have an officer or inmate killed because we have people in areas they shouldn’t be in and we don’t have enough staff.”