Inmates ‘sitting ducks’ as COVID-19 rages through prison, advocate says


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Inmates at the Joyceville Institution in northeast Kingston, Ont., are calling on Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and the prison’s warden to provide more information about the COVID-19 outbreak raging there.

As of Saturday, 95 inmates at the medium-security prison had tested positive for COVID-19, seven more than on Thursday. Four staff members have also tested positive, according to CSC’s website.

The prison is built for approximately 450 inmates.

“Whether it’s good or bad, we just want information to get to us,” reads a news release sent on behalf of the inmates, issued by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project and the Toronto Prisoners’ Right Project.

“Right now, there’s no message going. All we hear is what’s on the six o’clock news and what’s constantly repeated over and over on the news loop.”

Six of the inmates who’ve tested positive were recently moved from Joyceville to the Collins Bay Institution, according to the CSC.

Three inmates who later tested positive were transported to Warkworth Institution in Brighton, Ont, while one was taken to the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont.

Justin Piché, associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, said the inmates are also asking for additional sanitation and cleaning supplies, as well as more personal protective equipment. (Submitted by Justin Piché)

Concerns over PPE 

Along with better communication, the Joyceville inmates also want additional sanitation and cleaning supplies and more personal protective equipment, said Justin Piché, an associate professor in the University of Ottawa’s criminology department. 

“They’re sitting ducks with nowhere to go,” said Piché, who has been in direct contact with inmates and family members and helped write the press release on the inmates’ behalf.

According to that release, some prisoners have N95 masks while others don’t. While guards have face shields, the inmates say they haven’t been provided any. 

Some were using makeshift curtains to limit the spread of the virus, according to the release, but they were torn down by correctional officers, who then issued warnings. 

“They’re looking at least a few weeks of lockdowns, if not longer, and they need to take care of themselves and take care of others,” Piché said. “And they don’t have the means to do that right now.” 

Piché said he’s also heard reports of inmates who’ve asked to be tested for the virus and had their requests denied, although CSC says testing is being offered to all staff and inmates. 

All newly admitted offenders are placed in medical isolation for 14 days prior to being placed into an institution’s population, which is the COVID-19 incubation period.– Statement from Correctional Service Canada

In a statement, the federal agency said inmates who’ve tested positive are being medically isolated and closely monitored.

Inmates and staff at all CSC institutions are required to wear masks and abide by physical distancing measures, the statement said, and everyone who enters CSC facilities is screened.

Rapid tests are also being used to detect positive cases sooner, CSC said, with the results being posted online once they are confirmed by a lab. 

“It is also important to note that all newly admitted offenders are placed in medical isolation for 14 days prior to being placed into an institution’s population, which is the COVID-19 incubation period,” the statement reads.

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