Spike in violence at Burnside jail this month
Yearly assault numbers down, says justice department
There's been an escalation in the number of violent incidents at the Nova Scotia Correctional Facility this month, according to numbers from the justice department, sparking concern about safety in the jail.
Provincial figures show 18 incidents in February so far, including eight in which staff were targeted. That doubles January's total of nine incidents.
Just last week, a guard was hit in the face and broke her jaw. Police charged an inmate with uttering threats, resisting arrest and four counts of assaulting a peace officer.
“It’s obviously a very serious matter when a staff member gets injured,” said Sean Kelly, director of correctional services for the provincial justice department.
“We deal with a level of violence that most people would perhaps not understand, but it is an unfortunate factor in a correctional facility environment.”
Joan Jessome heads the union representing correctional officers at provincial jails. She said the union is meeting with management to tackle the issue of violence at the jail.
“I don't think any correctional officer would ever, in any jail, feel safe…we're not going to disappear on this one because there are things that can be put in place,” she said.
The Justice Department said overall the number of incidents is down this year compared to the last two years.
Between April 2012 and 2013 there were total of 148 violent incidents. In the 2011 to 2012 period 146 assaults were logged.
So far this year there have been 120.
Const. Pierre Bourdages said Halifax police laid 210 criminal charges against Burnside inmates last year. Of
those, 24 were for assault. They've laid 19 charges so far this year.
Kelly said changes have been made, but for security reasons, he won't say what they are.
He said things will also change later this year when the new Pictou jail opens, taking some of the load off the Burnside facility.