New Brunswick

Union blames understaffing for recent assaults on guards at Shediac jail

The union representing correctional officers at the Southeast Regional Correctional Centre in Shediac, says overcrowding and understaffing have resulted in regular assaults on guards — including two in the last week.

2 correctional officers were hospitalized, 1 required surgery, after separate attacks on Aug. 8

CUPE National representative Mike Davidson said overcrowding and understaffing are leading to regular assaults on correctional officers. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)

The union representing correctional officers at the Southeast Regional Correctional Centre in Shediac, says overcrowding and understaffing have resulted in regular assaults on guards — including two in the last week.

Mike Davidson, the national representative for CUPE, said two officers were recently hospitalized following separate incidents. One suffered a dislocated shoulder and facial injuries when he was attacked with a weapon.

"In a separate incident, an officer had a broken ankle while trying to detain an inmate," he said.

The Department of Justice confirmed an offender assaulted two correctional officers on Aug. 8 in separate incidents. A spokesperson said the officers' injuries were not life-threatening.

Guard needs surgery

Two correctional officers were hospitalized after separate incidents on Aug. 8 at the Southeast Regional Correctional Centre in Shediac. (CBC)

Davidson said one of the guards required surgery and both are still struggling to cope with their injuries since their release from hospital. 

He said the weapon used in the alleged assault on the first officer was a knife.

"I assume there's going to be an investigation into how the inmate obtained the knife for the attack," said Davidson, adding he had limited information about the second altercation.

The department said police have been asked to investigate the assaults, but RCMP media spokesperson Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said they have received no reports yet.

'Risk of the job'

The Southeast Regional Correctional Centre is seen here from the air. (Google Map Data 2017)
 

Davidson said correctional officers are doing a dangerous job in a dangerous environment. He said they're facing overcrowding with low staffing levels, something the union is working to resolve through contract negotiations.

However, he said the reality is that correctional officers are in the units with the inmates and have no weapons to defend themselves if an inmate reacts or lashes out against a guard.

"With the inmates, something can happen at any given moment," he said.  

"Assaults on staff do happen on a regular basis in our institutions. It's an inherit risk of the job."  

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy