Second riot at crowded jail
Amy Steele, The Times
[Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, British Columbia]
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
A prisoner waves a towel out a window at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre Saturday. It was the second riot in six months at the Maple Ridge facility.
Angry prisoners set fires, broke windows and smashed up their cells during a riot at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre on Saturday. It was the second riot that has occurred at the jail within the last six months. Inmates suffered minor injuries during the riot.
“It was a full-scale riot. There was a lot of damage,” said Dean Purdy, chair of the corrections and sheriffs branch of the B.C. Government Employees’ Union.
The incident was related to the transfer of three inmates to another jail, said Lisa Lapointe, spokesperson for B.C. Corrections.
“They weren’t happy about being transferred and became quite agitated. Then the rest of the inmates became agitated,” said Lapointe.
The riot involved 31 inmates who were in the remand unit, awaiting trial. The unit was originally designed for 20 people. The riot began around 10 a.m. on February 9 and police and corrections tactical teams regained control of the prison at around 2 p.m. The RCMP’s Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team, Ridge Meadows RCMP, the Maple Ridge Fire Department, BC Ambulance and B.C. Corrections tactical units arrived to quell the riot. B.C. Corrections and Ridge Meadows RCMP will be conducting a joint investigation into the incident.
“It’s unusual,” said Lapointe when asked to comment on the fact that there have been two riots in six months at FRCC. “We aren’t seeing a pattern. It’s one of those funny things. We’ve had a couple of disturbances at Fraser since August and hopefully we won’t see anything for another two or three years.”
Lapointe said at this point it doesn’t look like the two incidents had any similar triggers.
She said B.C. Corrections has implemented all the recommendations made after an investigation into last August’s riot.
“We look at the big picture and try to sort out why this happened. Is there anything we could’ve done differently to prevent the outcome, because it’s not something we like to see at our centres,” said Lapointe.
Ridge Meadows RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Ryan Schlecker said it’s too early to say whether charges will be laid in relation to the incident.
“We’re looking at video, talking to staff and interviewing prisoners to determine what happened,” he said. “It’s a question of just conducting an appropriate investigation.”
Some media outlets reported that hostages were taken during the riot. Lapointe said inmates threatened to do so during the incident but didn’t.
Councillor Ken Stewart, Maple Ridge council liaison to the prison, was at the scene Saturday. He said there was some fear that prisoners had steel bars they could use as weapons prior to police and corrections officers entering the prison. But he said as soon as the law enforcement team went into the prison there was no resistance from prisoners.
“I wouldn’t be concerned as a resident. At no time was there ever a concern of a perimeter breach,” said Stewart, adding there was also no threat to staff because they were outside the two units where the riot was taking place.
The B.C. Government Employees’ Union has raised concerns for months about overcrowding in prisons leading to unsafe conditions for inmates and staff.
“I don’t know how much effect the crowding had or didn’t have,” said Stewart. “There’s all kinds of issues in workplaces with staffing. I suspect B.C. Corrections isn’t immune to that. My understanding is there’s a challenge with over-time and that because they don’t have as many people being recruited as in the past.”
Stewart said the remand unit of the jail, where the riot occurred, contains prisoners who might end up in the federal prison system after they are sentenced.
“There could be people getting some really serious time,” he said.
Mayor Gord Robson said, “We’re all concerned that everything up there be run properly.”
“We think generally it is,” said Robson. “There was no danger to the public as far as I understand it… I think overcrowding probably has something to do with it. I think the expansion that will be going ahead will probably help that somewhat.”
The provincial government recently announced it would be adding 135 new cells to FRCC. It currently has 254 cells and, on average, about 470 inmates.
However, Robson is concerned that Maple Ridge police and firefighters have had to respond to two riots in six months and the municipality pays their salaries.
“If that were to continue I think we’d be looking for them to reimburse the taxpayers of Maple Ridge,” he said.
At a Monday council workshop meeting Councillor Craig Speirs questioned why a second riot has happened in such a short period.
“Once is fine, but a second time? I think now we have to pay a little more attention,” he said. “The community really needs answers about what is happening.”
Speirs said he wants council to see a copy of the investigation report after it’s completed.
Councillor Ken Stewart told council Monday that after the last riot he and RCMP Inspector Jim Wakely met with the FRCC warden who updated them on the investigation findings. He said that will likely occur again and he will tell council what he learns.
B.C. prison remains in lockdown after riot
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Calm has been restored at a maximum-security prison in B.C. following a riot by about 30 prisoners on Saturday.
A tactical team ended the disturbance at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge without serious injuries, a union spokesman for prison guards said Sunday.
“A riot inside a maximum security prison is very frightening and scary. It’s a very dangerous situation,” Dean Purdy, a spokesman for the B.C. Government Employees Union, told the CBC’s Leslie Pritchard.
The RCMP said it appeared some prisoners were upset they were being transferred to another facility.
While there have been complaints of overcrowding at the facility, it’s not known whether that played a part in the angry confrontation. Purdy said the prison has a capacity of 430 inmates but held 65 more than that Saturday.
At one point during the riot, prisoners could be seen breaking windows and throwing objects to other inmates in the yard below. Inmates took other inmates hostage and two small fires were started.
The uprising started about 10 a.m. local time and ended four hours later with prisoners either being put back in their cells or arrested by police.
Ambulance and fire crews were called to the prison as a precaution, but the police spokesman said neither service was necessary.
Both the RCMP and correctional centre officials will be investigating the cause of the disturbance.
FRCC inmates injured during disturbance
Maple Ridge News [British Columbia]
February 09, 2008
Prisoners at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre make obsene jestures and wave white towels out the windows after a disturbance at the provincial facility in Maple Ridge on Saturday.
Colleen Flanagan/Black Press
Some inmates suffered minor injuries during a disturbance at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre on Saturday.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows RCMP were called to the provincial prison on 256th Street in Maple Ridge at around 10 a.m. after a report of violence involving 31 prisoners.
According to a report by News 1130 Radio, some inmates had taken others hostage. Wooden legs of beds were being used as weapons, and two fires were set.
The incident apparently started when one inmate refused to be transferred.
The RCMP Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team was also called. The Maple Ridge fire department and B.C. Ambulance Service also attended, as did Coquitlam and Mission RCMP, who helped respond to other calls for service during the day.
The RCMP Lower Mainland Tactical Squad was contacted, but was later determined not to be needed.
The prisoners were contained in two units after the RCMP Emergency Response Team entered the prison at 1:46 p.m.
“Police regained control of the prison and turned it back over to the correctional staff,” said Sgt. R.E. Lemon
“There were some minor injuries suffered by inmates, but those injuries were as a result of the disturbance, not the police actions,” he added
Fraser Regional Corrections and local RCMP are investigating the incident.
Fraser Regional will expand from 254 cells to 389 cells next year, requiring an addition to to the building. That will reduce the amount of double bunking in the prison, which is currently at 172 per cent of capacity.
Construction is due to start in February 2009 and be complete by December 2010.
In the meantime, temporary housing will be complete by May that will house 100 inmates. That will be in the form of a large tent, as used in some U.S. prisons. Once permanent expansion takes place, the tent could be used for programs.
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