sk-saskatoon-jail-int-2010

Overcrowding at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre is creating a dangerous situation, the union representing jail guards says. ((CBC))

Guards at provincial jails are calling for better security in the wake of an inmate incident at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre on the weekend.

Three inmates forced their way into a staff room Friday night, and allegedly threatened three workers with iron rods.

More staff were called in and the incident ended without anyone being injured. The jail was put on lockdown, a heightened security status where inmates are confined to their cells, until Sunday evening.

According to Bob Bymoen, the president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union, which represents workers at provincial jails, what happened is another reminder that more needs to be done to make the jails safer.

"You know, you're playing with a ticking time bomb," Bymoen said. "The government has to get a handle on this. You can't keep having three times as many inmates in a centre that's supposed to be there."

The Saskatoon facility has nearly 100 more inmates than it was designed to handle, corrections officials have told CBC.

A crucial issue, Bymoen said, is the lack of secure separation between inmates and correctional workers.

"They're in direct contact at all times with the inmates. There's no separation with their offices and the inmates in those correctional centres and they don't have other security provisions to handle the level of inmates that they have," he said.

Bymoen said he wants the government to implement recommendations contained in the 2009 report of the Saskatchewan Ombudsman.

In that report, the Ombudsman's office said "overcrowded jails with a lack of programming are a recipe for disaster," making it more diffcult to separate gangs or other inmates who may harm each other.

It's "vital" that work proceeds on a new remand centre planned for the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, which would take pressure off the overcrowding situation, the report said.