The Edmonton Institution for Women in Edmonton is shown on November 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Edmonton Institution for Women in Edmonton is shown on November 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Researchers flag increase in COVID-19 cases in Canadian prisons, jails

Since Dec. 1, there have been over 1,962 cases in Canadian prisons and facilities

Rights advocates and researchers are sounding an alarm about COVID-19 cases in Canadian prisons and jails, saying the numbers in recent weeks have surpassed the total during the first nine months of the pandemic.

The researchers say that from March to the end of November, there were 1,864 reported novel coronavirus cases among prisoners and jail staff in Canada, more than half of which were in October and November.

Since Dec. 1, there have been over 1,962 cases.

Prisoners have accounted for about 80 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases linked to prisons and jails during the pandemic, according to the data.

The findings emerged Monday through the Prison Pandemic Partnership, which brings together academics who study corrections and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

They are calling on provincial, territorial and federal governments to take bolder steps to protect people in correctional institutions.

Abby Deshman, director of the criminal justice program at the civil liberties association, cites concerns that some inmates do not have adequate access to masks or cleaning and hygiene supplies.

“The people confined in our prisons and jails are at high risk both of contracting COVID-19, and of serious illness and death as a result,” Deshman said in a statement accompanying the latest figures.

“We need to make safe and effective community supervision — which would allow people to effectively physically distance — the number 1 priority. For those who continue to be supervised in jails, effective and humane public health measures need to be implemented.”

When the pandemic began, the number of people in custody in most provinces and territories started declining, said Justin Piché, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa and member of the partnership team.

Since then, many governments have “taken their foot off the gas as the number of COVID-19 cases accelerated past them,” Piché said.

“Now is the time to do more to contain COVID, not people”.

The initial findings of the partnership “likely represent the tip of the iceberg” due to inconsistent availability of relevant figures, said Kevin Walby, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg and the team’s principal investigator.

“In order to put in place measures to prevent and limit the impact of COVID-19 in prisons, clear and full data is needed.”

According to the latest Correctional Service of Canada figures, 1,211 federal inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, but of these only 73 cases were still active.

Four federal inmates with a COVID-19 diagnosis have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

Since the spread of COVID-19, the federal Parole Board has streamlined a number of its policies, noted Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

Since March 1, the number of men in federal custody has declined by 1,402, or over 10 per cent, and women by 51, or over seven percent, she said.

“This downward trend in the overall federal inmate population is expected to continue over the coming months.”

The government has also provided $500,000 to five voluntary organizations to develop pilot projects to help reintegrate offenders under supervision at community-based residential facilities, she said.

In addition, the Correctional Service has put in place extensive infection prevention and control measures at institutions across the country, Power said.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alistair MacGregor will have Pharmacare on his mind for a Thursday, Jan. 21 virtual town hall. (Photo by Lexi Bainas/Cowichan Valley Citizen)
Cowichan MP hosting town hall on universal pharmacare

“Pharmacare for All: A Prescription for Your Wallet”

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Not enough local eggs to meet demand: officials

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

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

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read