Agreement reached in lockdown of Edmonton Remand Centre

Correctional officers concerned at the high number of assaults by inmates staged a lockdown at the Edmonton Remand Centre on Friday morning.

'The ones that are serious, they're very serious, where officers have been knocked unconscious'

Inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre protested earlier in January 2018 against alleged corrections officers assaults on prisoners. (CBC)

An agreement reached between the province and the union representing peace officers at the Edmonton Remand Centre ended a day-long lockdown at the institution.

Correctional officers staged the lockdown Friday morning after they suffered the blows of frequent, violent attacks from the centre's inmates.

"There's almost been one [assault] every day for the last couple of weeks, from what I understand," said Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union Of Provincial Employees, the union that represents the officers.

"Some obviously more serious than others. But the ones that are serious, they're very serious, where officers have been knocked unconscious and put in a very vulnerable position."

That includes an alleged assault on an officer that happened overnight.

"We haven't specifically seen any report from the incident, but I do understand that he was knocked unconscious by an inmate," said Smith.

Staff concerned about prison since 2013 opening

The union met with staff from the Justice ministry to "resolve the immediate threats to worker health and safety," AUPE said in a press release Friday night.

Sources told CBC News the parties agreed to let inmates out on a rotational basis for the next six months to see if it will reduce the risk of injury. The rotations will take place in parts of the facility where most of the assaults have occurred.

The prison is designed in a way that lets inmates meet in large groups outside their cells at the same time, increasing the risk of violent attacks.

But Smith said he doesn't know why assaults have spiked over the last couple of weeks.

"Certainly there's a number of conditions in that facility, being that it's so-called open concept, where there's a lot of inmate population out of their cells at once, where there's a lot of interaction with officers," said Smith.

"Also the fact that there's really no retribution against inmates for attacking a correctional officer. They seem to do it with impunity, and that is a huge concern."

The agreement also includes bi-weekly meetings with an operational health and safety committee to discuss on-going issues.

Staff have voiced their concerns about safety since the prison opened in 2013, the union said in a release.

Other "long standing" workplace health and safety concerns will be discussed with correctional officers, operational health and safety staff on Dec. 19, the union said in the release.

In an emailed statement to the CBC News, Schmidt wrote:

"Our government takes the safety concerns raised by staff at the Edmonton Remand Centre extremely seriously. Senior officials within the Justice and Solicitor General ministry have met with management and staff at the facility and continue to do so to address safety concerns as quickly as possible."

With files from Janice Johnston, Scott Stevenson and Anna Desmarais