Officer beaten badly at jail

A correctional officer at the Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver is recovering after being violently assaulted by an inmate on Tuesday.

The male officer was reportedly attacked in a living unit where he was aggressively sucker-punched from behind and knocked to the ground, before being punched several more times.

The officer was taken to hospital for treatment and is now recovering at home.

"This would be characterized as a very violent and vicious assault," Dean Purdy said, vice president of Corrections and Sheriffs Services for the B.C. Government Employees Union.

Purdy said it was fortunate that two other officers "happened to be there" to intervene when the incident took place.

He said often there is only one officer working at a time in a living unit, but another officer was there and was being shadowed by a brand-new recruit.

"It's unfortunate the new officer had to witness that."

The OCC will be pursuing criminal charges as a result of the incident, according to Purdy.

"We're very concerned about this. I think we dodged what could've been easily the death of a correctional officer."

BC Corrections confirmed the incident and said 37 inmates were in the living unit at the time, also noting there is a "zero-tolerance policy on violence" and that the safety of staff and inmates is their top priority.

It was only Friday that Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth visited the jail, and acknowledged violence that has occurred there. 

Tuesday's incident was one of two inmate assaults on officers that have occurred at the jail since Farnworth's visit.

Purdy said an officer was attacked on Saturday in a segregation unit at the facility, and said the officer sustained minor injuries but was able to defend himself until back-up came. 

Farnworth will be meeting soon with Purdy to discuss issues including violence and staff-to-inmate ratios at correctional facilities in the province.

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