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Two corrections officers assaulted at Port Coquitlam's North Fraser Pretrial

Two corrections officers at North Fraser Pretrial Centre are recovering after they were attacked by inmates over the weekend.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Two corrections officers at North Fraser Pretrial Centre are recovering after they were attacked by inmates over the weekend.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Two corrections officers at North Fraser Pretrial Centre are recovering after they were assaulted by inmates in two separate incidents on Friday.

The first attack occurred shortly after 7 a.m. in the records and admissions section of the jail when an inmate punched a female staff member in the side of the head. She was treated by prison health care staff and was later able to return to work.

Another attack occurred several hours later in a different section of the jail. A male corrections officer was conducting an inmate count on one of the tiers when an inmate came up behind him and punched the staff member in the face.

The inmate was said to be a member of the Independent Soldiers, a violent street gang that has been associated with some of the ongoing gun violence in the Lower Mainland in recent years.

The corrections officer was taken to hospital but the extent of his injuries are still unknown, according to Dean Purdy, the chair of the B.C. Government Employees Union's corrections component.

"They are conducting a cat scan on him," he said. "They are unable to determine whether he has a broken orbital bone due to the severe swelling."

Purdy blames overcrowding for a high level of tension that he said is fueling inmate on staff violence. NFPC was originally built to house 300 inmates but last Friday he said the count was closer to 550.

There have been 16 assaults so far this year and Purdy believes the numbers could increase in the summer, which is a time when the jails become even more overcrowded.

"The tension is high right now," he said. "We will see more violence. Inmate violence isn't going away."

Purdy said some of the overcrowding issues could be alleviated if the jail switched to a rotational lockdown. That would mean letting out half of the inmates at a time, while the other half remained locked up.

Currently, there are 60 inmates for every staff person. If a rotational lockup system was in place that would reduce the number to 30 inmates per corrections officer.

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