Federal prison ombudsman Ivan Zinger says he met with Correctional Service of Canada officials this week about the rise in violent assaults at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon.
One-third of the Correctional workers at the multi-level psychiatric hospital are on some form of workers’ compensation.
‘The inmates that are assaulting us are right in front of us the next day. There’s no repercussions for them.’
– James Bloomfield, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers
“I can confirm that there has been an increase in assaults against staff, both fluids/waste and physical, since September 2017,” Zinger wrote in an email.
“I am also concerned that recent lockups, modified routines and the inability of patients go to programs and activities have resulted in unusual tension and frustration among the patient population.”
The union that represents Corrections workers says that changes to the policy around segregation of inmates in the federal system is a driver behind the violence.
James Bloomfield, with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, says staff at the Saskatoon hospital are not able to move patients out of the general population.
“There’s just been continuous assaults of throwing urine and feces on officers, spitting on officers, biting — we’ve had officers been stabbed with pens. We’ve had a lot of physical assaults in that way. It’s just been continuous,” he said.
“The inmates that are assaulting us are right in front of us the next day. There’s no repercussions for them.”
Saskatoon situation not unique
The Correctional Service of Canada declined interview requests from CBC to discuss staff concerns — but officials did meet with Zinger.
“I discussed the situation with the Senior Deputy Commissioner yesterday, and she confirmed that CSC is in the process of carefully reviewing the challenging situation at RPC Saskatoon,” he wrote.
Zinger added that the situation in Saskatoon is not unique.
“My Office is concerned that all five CSC Regional Treatment Centres are not resourced at the same level as community psychiatric hospitals, and that the current intervention model requires to be reviewed,” he wrote.
“The best practice in the community for secure psychiatric hospitals is to have health care professionals as front-line staff, with correctional staff in the background to ensure safety and security of both staff and patients.”