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)

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

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)
Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read