Mission Institution. Kevin Mills / Mission City Record.

Mission Institution. Kevin Mills / Mission City Record.

New cases linked to site of B.C.’s largest prison COVID-19 outbreak

New outbreak could be ‘recipe for disaster’ at Mission Institution, mother of inmate warns

A new COVID-19 case has been connected to Mission Institution, the site of B.C.’s largest prison outbreak in the spring.

Families are terrified that new cases could signal another large outbreak but have been told little, Joanne Fry, the mother of one inmate said Saturday morning. She said she has confirmed at least one new case. Meanwhile, corrections officers have been told two staff members have tested positive, The News has learned.

Last spring an outbreak infected a dozen guards and more than 100 inmates – nearly half of the prisoner population. One prisoner died during that outbreak.

The first case was diagnosed on Tuesday, Nov. 11, according to Joanne Fry, whose son is a prisoner at the site and organized the Mission Prison Family Association after the outbreak. Fry said the facility went into a lockdown on Wednesday to restrict inmate movement. But she says she has been able to learn little else. With Fraser Health having yet to issue a public notice about the facility and a lack of communication from the Correctional Service of Canada, Fry says family members have been left in the dark.

“As usual, CSC and Mission Institution avoid any slight type of communication or liaison,” she said. “We have no way of getting updates, we don’t know how many have tested positive. We don’t know if they learned a thing from the last experience.”

Fry she hopes the media coverage of the last outbreak – and the lawsuit her group has filed – will prompt a better response this time at Mission.

Two staff cases were also diagnosed in September, but the virus didn’t charge through the facility as it had several months before.

But Fry says there hasn’t been any sign of better communication with families, and that the lack of information has inflicted “trauma” on people worried about their loved ones.

“We’re talking about 300 human beings here … and if you don’t give a damn about inmates, think about what all the families are going through.”

RELATED: Staff shortages plague Mission Institution following recovery from COVID-19 outbreak

RELATED: Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak declared over

RELATED: Two employees test positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution

The News has tried to contact the prison and the union that represents corrections officers, but hasn’t yet received a response. The News has also asked Fraser Health for more information on the situation at the prison.

Fry said she has been in touch with the union, and that they have also expressed concern about how the facility handled the last outbreak – and how it might handle the next one.

At the start of October, the prison was operating with just 60 per cent of its force of guards, with 21 employees self-isolating after the September COVID cases.

Derek Chin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers for the Pacific Region, said at the time that guards were feeling the strain.

“Things aren’t always great at that site when it comes to labour relations,” Chin said. “There have been a lot of officers that have been worked pretty hard, lots of hours, they feel under-appreciated.”

At that time, the CSC said staff had “shown flexibility and some have worked extended hours,” to keep the prison running.

“Mission Institution anticipates being able to return to regular activities as soon as the staff have been cleared from self isolation,” CSC said.

Now Fry worries another outbreak would be a recipe for disaster.

“You’ve got two groups of people who are both in real bad places. That is a crisis waiting to happen.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
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

The Santa’s Workshop fundraiser being put on by Camosun students on Dec. 5, 2020, will benefit Providence Farm. (Submitted)
Camosun students harness spirit holiday season with Providence Farm fundraiser

The next event, coming up on Dec. 5, is a virtual “Day in Santa’s Workshop”

Colwood resident, Geoffrey Irwin, has been missing since Sep. 27. His vehicle was found in Vancouver on Nov. 25. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Police search for former Caps player last seen in September

Geoff Irwin’s vehicle was found in Vancouver Nov. 25

Cowichan Tribes’ artist Darrell Thorne (left) and Phil Kent, chairman of the Island Corridor Foundation, hold Thorne’s first-place winning design in the ICF’s First Nations artist competition. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Tribes’ Darrell Thorne wins ICF art competition

Artists designed perspectives on passenger trains of the future

Shopping locally for the holidays has never been so important. (Submitted)
Editorial: Buying local for holidays never so important

It’s an important thing to consider when you go to do both your in person and online shopping

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples encourages groups and organizations in the city to take advantage of Duncan’s DOVID-19 grants program. (File photo)
Still lots of money left in Duncan’s COVID-19 grant program

Council has approved just three applications so far

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read