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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Nine Abbotsford citizens fleeced for over $68,000 by bitcoin scammers

Police warn public about fraudsters who threaten arrest

Comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

Most Read