The Community Correctional Centre (CCC) in Chilliwack is a halfway house run by the Correctional Service of Canada and houses high-risk offenders reintegrating into the community. It is the only CCC in British Columbia. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Union for parole officers at B.C. halfway house says public safety at risk

Increase in parole officers’ workload dealing with highest-risk offenders raises concern

In the 1990s, Kevin Scott Miller raped a 14-year-old girl, violently choked a 21-year-old woman he met at a bar and strangled a prostitute with a drawstring from his own jacket.

His psychopathic score was measured by psychiatrist to be in the 86th percentile.

And in 2016, Kevin Scott Miller was living at a halfway house in Chilliwack, the Community Correctional Centre on Rowat Avenue.

Miller has not reoffended in a violent way, although he is back in custody, having violated his long-term supervision order by purchasing cannabis. But his very presence in the community at a centre from which he could walk away is shocking to some in the community.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack violent sex offender pleads guilty to breach of long-term supervisor

As for those who work at Community Correctional Centres (CCC), they are in a crisis in their ability to deal with offenders such as Miller, according to the Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE).

The Chilliwack location is the only CCC in British Columbia and one of 14 across the country where parole officers supervise the highest-risk offenders as they are released back into the community.

More than two thirds of parole officers reported in an internal USJE survey that they were “very concerned about the fact that they did not feel they could protect the public,” according to USJE national vice-president David Neufeld.

“Speaking to our members at the Chilliwack Community Correctional Centre, the issue of workload is truly something that they are concerned about,” Neufeld told The Progress.

The problem facing parole officers in Canada isn’t new. Five years ago, under the Stephen Harper Conservatives’ so-called Deficit Reduction Action Plan, the ratio of parole officers to offenders went from one to eight up to one to 13.

“The parole officers are telling us that it’s difficult to manage with the time that they’ve got,” Neufeld said.

As an example, Neufeld said parole officers might deal with a gang member who has served time and is looking to get back into society and stay away from former associates. If the officer doesn’t have enough time to meet with the offender and discuss what they are going through, the risk to the offender and the public increases.

In addition to the workload caused by the government cutbacks, in 2017 under the Liberal government pressure was put on the Correctional Service of Canada to get Indigenous offenders back into the community. That means pressure to get offenders in front of parole boards after just one program is completed in jail.

“Just because a guy has completed a program, he may not be ready for release,” Neufeld said.

If that offender hasn’t dealt with his or her criminogenic risk factors, it puts more pressure on the PO to manage him or her in the community.

“I can tell you the CCCs play a critical role in the reintegration of the offenders who are particularly high risk because if they don’t have the supports they need when they come back into the community, that’s when they are at greater risk,” Neufeld said.

The USJE issued its “Crisis in Corrections” news release on Monday, just days before Members of Parliament head back to Ottawa. The timing is meant to urge the federal government to take immediate action to address the challenges of frontline workers dealing with high-risk offenders.

Asked about the CCC in Chilliwack and concerns of union members, Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl said the primary responsibility of government is to protect the health and safety of law-abiding citizens.

“I met with members of the staff at the local Community Correctional Centre earlier this year to listen to their concerns, which were very troubling,” he said in a statement. “I raised the issue with former Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, but didn’t receive a satisfactory response. I’m hopeful that the new minister [Bill Blair] will place a higher priority on this file.”

A spokesperson from Correctional Service Canada said Wednesday no one was yet available to comment on the union’s concerns.

• RELATED: Fighting hunger with Bowls of Hope earns community service award for Mike Csoka


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Police seek victims of alleged Prince George pedophile

Kevin James Belcourt has been charged with several sex crimes involving a girl under 16

Telkwa lifts boil water advisory

The Village of Telkwa has just announced that as of 3:00 p.m.… Continue reading

Chevron’s move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

New report into sawmill explosions released

The report recommends streamlining investigative process

No parole for 12 years for Burns Lake man convicted of second degree murder

Judge said he did not believe Albert Giesbrecht’s claim his gun discharged accidentally

VIDEO: These are the top toys this Christmas, B.C. toy experts say

Consider the play value of a game, staff at Toy Traders say

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Most Read