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Guards charged with assaulting prisoner in Maple Ridge jail where many with mental illnesses held

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The guards’ union said they rushed to help when a mentally ill prisoner attacked a guard

The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre is seen in Maple Ridge.

The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre is seen in Maple Ridge. Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Four guards from the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre will appear in Port Coquitlam provincial court on Monday charged with assault causing bodily harm for an alleged attack on an prisoner more than a year ago.

Charges against the four — Matthew Black, Luke Poelzer, Ryan Saunders and Neil Stirton — were laid in November 2018 in connection with an incident at the Maple Ridge institution on Sept. 18, 2017.

The alleged victim, Anthanios-Tom Mavros, has a history of mental illness and interactions with police and the court system. At the time, he was serving a 284-day sentence after pleading guilty to robbery on July 24, 2017.

Postmedia has learned that the Correctional Centre’s warden was fired after the confrontation involving the guards.


Luke Poelzer from Facebook

B.C. Corrections spokesperson Cindy Rose said in an emailed statement that she couldn’t comment on the assault allegation or the rare criminal charges laid against government employees.

“While I can’t comment on the matters currently before the courts, I can say generally that B.C. Corrections is committed to ensuring the duties of all staff are carried out as required by policy and the law,” her statement said. “Correctional officers are held to high standards of conduct — and as peace officers, they receive extensive training in a variety of disciplines, including de-escalation and the use of force.”

She implied that there is an internal review into what happened, though wouldn’t confirm any details.

“Any time a serious incident takes place, an internal review is conducted to help mitigate any future occurrences,” Rose said.

Union vice-president Dean Purdy also said he couldn’t comment on the charges since the matter is both before the courts and in arbitration. But Postmedia obtained a copy of a bulletin Purdy sent to union members last month.

“Four of our own are facing criminal charges after coming to the aid of a fellow correctional officer, who was violently attacked,” said Purdy, of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union. “In September 2017, a living unit officer (guard) at a regional correctional centre in the Lower Mainland was the victim of an unprovoked, violent attack by an inmate. A number of your brothers and sisters responded to this emergency and eventually secured the prisoner.”

Purdy said that eight of the responding officers were fired and six more were disciplined.

He noted that at the time Crown laid charges against the four, they and others had been “engaged in a labour relations dispute since December 2017 and the matter is currently in arbitration.”

“Without prejudicing the case, we note that this situation could happen to any one of us working in corrections and sheriff services,” he said. “The union will vigorously defend our members, despite the lack of support from the employer. We are all on trial every day, so we must stand together and support our colleagues.”

Mavros, 37, has been before provincial court judges more than 20 times since 2004 when he was convicted in Prince George of assault with a weapon and got two years probation.

In 2011, Vancouver Police issued a news release saying Mavros was missing and his family was worried.


Anthanios-Tom Mavros photo released by Vancouver Police in 2011

Police described him as bi-polar and suffering from schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. And the news release said that when he didn’t take his medication, he was “known to become violent.”

Since the Sept. 2017 incident with guards, Mavros was released from jail, then charged again in June 2018 for breaching probation. He got a day in jail.

On Oct. 29, 2018, he pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon in Surrey and was sentenced to another three months in jail.

Speaking generally, union official Purdy said about 60 per cent of inmates in B.C.’s 10 jails “have both mental health and addictions issues.”

“We are not becoming the default mental health facilities. We are the mental health facilities in this province that take the overflow of people who really belong in institutions but end up in jail for various reasons,” Purdy said.

“We do have dedicated mental health living units inside the jails and even those are not enough — the inmates that aren’t able to be housed in those living units are basically roaming around in the general population or the protective custody units and they just don’t belong there.”

kbolan@postmedia.com

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