Oliver & Osoyoos  

Inmate deaths in federal and provincial prisons on the rise in B.C.

Inmate deaths spike in B.C.

Inmate deaths in B.C. prisons are on the rise, according to provincial research collected over a 10-year period.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General shared a summary report of all inmate deaths at federal and provincial correctional facilities within British Columbia.

From January 2013 to December 2023, 188 deaths in provincial and federal prisons were reported, making the yearly average for such deaths 17.

However, that number grew in recent years, with 25 inmates dying in B.C. prisons in 2023.

From 2018 to 2023, the number of deaths in correctional facilities spiked by 56 per cent. Additionally, about 60 per cent of those fatalities occurred in Fraser Valley federal institutions.

More than half of the fatalities in federal facilities occurred at the Pacific Institution in Abbotsford. And one third of the deaths in provincial institutions happened at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.

No prison deaths were reported in B.C.’s interior in 2023. A total of 10 occurred during the overall research period.

Three deaths occurred at the provincial Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver over those 10 years.

The data also shows that male prisoners were the overwhelming offenders. Over the 10-year period, 98 per cent of intimates causing death to another inmate were male.

However, 18 per cent of the deaths were determined to be accidental. Of accidental deaths, most were related to confirmed drug toxicity cases.

The BC Coroners Service notes that the data is subject to change, and that it includes deaths of “inmates transferred to hospital for medical treatment and deaths occurring in sheriff's vehicles during transportation to a correctional facility.”

“The report excludes deaths occurring at halfway houses for parolees, in police custody such as in municipal police or RCMP cells, and at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital," reads the press release.

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