Monday afternoon’s riot at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre (PACC) that lead to two injuries was related to gang activity, according to a union representative.
Verne Larson of Saskatchewan Government & General Employee Union (SGEU) represents correctional officers in provincial facilities across Saskatchewan, including the PACC.
Larson was informed that the riot began around 2 p.m. when inmates who were outside of their cells broke windows in the area where correctional officers are seated in a pod-type structure. They proceeded to break cell doors open, freeing more inmates.
“I’m not surprised that we had this riot, what I am surprised at is that thank goodness none of our staff got seriously injured,” Larson said.
“This highlights how important and risky these jobs are at this facility. Everyday our members going to work knowing the risk that they will face,” he added.
Inmates also broke windows trying to get outside, but were unsuccessful because of metal bars attached on the outside, Larson explained. City police patrolled the outside perimeter of the building to ensure inmates didn’t get outside.
In response to the disturbance, the Emergency Response Team made up of correctional officers was activated in Prince Albert, and back up correctional officers came in from Saskatoon as well to help deal with the riot.
The Prince Albert Fire Department also attended the scene after inmates started a fire.
Larson said two correctional officers were injured during the riot. One officer had broken glass in their face and another suffered a back injury. He isn’t sure if criminal charges related to the incident will be made.
The disturbance started with six or seven inmates and Larson believes up to 15 were involved in total. It took emergency teams and officers several hours to contain the riot, which ended around 7 p.m.
The ministry of corrections confirmed that the disturbance happened on a unit that “primarily houses gang-affiliated individuals on remand.” Because the incident is related to safety and security of the facility, the ministry wasn’t able to provide additional details.
“The ministry has referred the incident to the police and will be conducting its own investigation,” reads a statement.
Larson said the incident was related to “longstanding issues” with gangs, which he added have been an ongoing problem for the jail.
He said a similar type of incident occurred in September where fencing in the yard was damaged and minor injuries occurred.
This time, only water and building damage occurred according to Larson.