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

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Scamsters target Montrose resident. File photo
Fraudsters strike again in Montrose

A Montrose resident was taken for thousands in a COVID-related scam

(Black Press file photo)
Trail RCMP fine event organizer for flouting PHO order

Twenty-nine people attended an event at a place of worship in Trail

Violin Lake last fall. Photo: City of Trail
City of Trail applies for grant to decomission dams

Adaptation, Resilience and Disaster Mitigation grant to restore Cambridge Creek and Violin Lk system

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kamloops hospital grows to 66 cases

A majority of cases remain among staff at Royal Inland Hospital

Most Read