'Surge of violence' described inside Sask. Penitentiary after series of attacks among inmates
Over a one-month period, five assaults among inmates happened at Saskatchewan Penitentiary that involved "stabbing or slashing weapons."
That's according to a statement provided by Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) following a CTV News request.
The incidents took place between Nov. 16 and Dec 16.
"The inmates involved were assessed and were offered medical treatment by institutional health services personnel, as required," the statement said.
Two inmates were taken to hospital for treatment, according to CSC. There were no injuries to staff in the incidents.
During the same period, there were two additional "security incidents" where staff were assaulted by inmates, CSC said.
No weapons were involved in the staff assaults.
One of the staff members required treatment in hospital, CSC said.
"Ensuring the safety and security of its institutions, staff, inmates and the public is a priority," the CSC statement said.
"Disciplinary action is taken and/or criminal charges can be laid against offenders involved in violent incidents."
“There’s definitely been a surge of violence in that institution,” James Bloomfield, the prairie regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, told CTV News.
According to Bloomfield, violence and inmate deaths within federal prisons in the prairie region have been trending upward for the last three years.
“It has been for a multitude of reasons,” Bloomfield said. “We have a very high gang population within our prisons.”
He said gangs, drugs, the loss of segregation and "inadequate repercussions" has contributed to the surge in violence.
"There is an unbelievable amount of drugs with our institutions at this point,” said Bloomfield.
Bloomfield said correctional officers need better tools to deal with drone drops and throw-overs of drugs and weapons into institutions.
He said “aggressors” of violence aren’t being addressed properly by the courts or within institutional operations.
“When we have segregation that was removed by the courts and replaced with structured interventions units, we end up with those not being utilized in situations like this,” Bloomfield said
He said a large number of maximum security inmates that have been downgraded and mixed in with medium populations.
“We have no real ability to house individuals away from others anymore in a way that gets to stop some of the violence.”
The pandemic has also complicated the situation within prisons, according to Bloomfield.
As of Dec. 20, Saskatchewan Penitentiary has a total inmate population of 717, including 100 offenders in maximum security, 421 offenders in medium security and 121 offenders in minimum security.
It has a rated capacity of 835 beds, says CSC.
It also has 350 correctional officers. CSC says it has implemented national standards for the deployment of correctional officers for all of its institutions.
“The standards ensure all institutions are properly staffed with correctional officers, to ensure static and dynamic security across the institution and provide consistent levels of supervision and ensure an appropriate response capacity,” says CSC in a statement to CTV News.