Prince George Regional Correctional Centre, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
September 22, 2019

An unknown number of prisoners at the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre refused orders to return to their cells and damaged prison infrastructure, according to Dean Purdy, spokesperson for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents the guards at the facility. The prisoners then gained access to an elevator and proceeded to damage the east and west lobbies of the facility, he said.

Tactical response teams intervened to subdue the uprising when one prisoner began attacking another prisoner, Purdy said. This prisoner suffered minor injuries.

Colin Hynes of the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety confirmed in an emailed statement to Perilous that there was a lockdown at the facility caused by prisoners who “set off internal alarms” and that one prisoner suffered minor injuries. Hynes also stated that the incident “was quickly brought under control.” Hynes declined to provide additional information, stating that for “security reasons, no further details of the incident will be released.”

B.C. Corrections did not publicly disclose the incident, but it did confirm that a disturbance occurred following an inquiry from CBC/Radio-Canada. Hynes declined to respond to questions regarding the department’s decision to not publicly disclose the incident.

Purdy said that the majority of the roughly 250 prisoners at the facility were placed into segregation following the incident.

Last year, the number of attacks on guards in B.C. prisons reached an all-time high, according to Purdy. There were 120 attacks against correctional staff in 2018.

“What we’re seeing is more of our correctional officers who go to work each day — providing public safety — off with PTSD and other mental health issues,” Purdy told CBC/Radio-Canada.

The provincial correctional service told CBC/Radio-Canada that prisons in B.C. are not overcrowded and that under-staffing does not result in additional attacks on guards.

In 2015, B.C.’s auditor general released a report stating that prisons in B.C. are understaffed and overcrowded, presenting a danger to staff and prisoners. The report stated,

“Correctional centres in British Columbia are over capacity, operating at 140% occupancy on average with individual centres ranging from 107% to 177%. Prison overcrowding increases risks to both inmates and staff, and contributes to rising tension and the potential for conflicts. Although the Adult Custody Division regularly inspects, assesses risks, and monitors and reviews critical incidents, it cannot adequately demonstrate whether operating its prisons at these levels provides for safe custody.”

According to the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson, B.C. failed to conduct legally-required inspections of its prisons for ten years, from 2001-2012.

 

Citations:

Inmates ‘riot’ at Prince George jail, take over elevator and damage building: union“, CBC/Radio-Canada, September 23, 2019.

Background:

B.C. jails need more guards to address growing inmate violence, union says“, CBC/Radio-Canada, September 11, 2019.

B.C. prison workers endured record-breaking year of assaults in 2018, union says“, CBC/Radio-Canada, March 7, 2019.

B.C. neglected to conduct formal prison inspections for 10 years, says ombudsperson“, CBC/Radio-Canada, June 16, 2016.

An Audit of the Adult Custody Division’s Correctional Facilities and Programs“, Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia, January 2015.

Article published: 10/7/19