It’s in the jails…

March 24, 2020

 Toronto Star – Jim Rankin
Toronto South Detention Centre guard receiving care in hospital after COVID-19 test, jail on lockdown

The jail is on lockdown until the results of a Covid-19 test on a male guard are available.  There is a fair amount of confusion in the efforts to track the contacts for the virus and whether this incident is consequent to foreign travel or has been passed through the community.  Ontario has made some relaxation of the rules around temporary absences, week-end sentence serving and parole but the moves are not clear that they will be helpful in prevention or harmful to the spread of the virus.  Advocates are also seeking free phone calls for inmates.  About half Ontario’s jails are acknowledged as overcrowded with about 7500 in total, 70% of whom are without conviction and on remand.   Related article: Global News – David Giles  Coronavirus: Inmates at Saskatoon jail under quarantine after possible link to COVID-19   Related article: Toronto Star – Betsy Powell  Ontario Court of Justice suspends most operations over COVID-19 pandemic   Related article: Los Angeles Times (US) – Editorial (March 18, 2020)   Coronavirus makes jails and prisons potential death traps. That puts us all in danger   Related article: CBS News (US) – Justine Carissimo   38 test positive for coronavirus in New York City jails   Yahoo News – Associated Press (US), Robin McDowell and Michael Balsamo   38 positive for coronavirus in NYC jails, including Rikers   Related article: Toronto Star – Robert Benzie  Canadian Civil Liberties Association urges release of ‘releasable’ prisoners to curb COVID-19 spread  

Toronto Star – Editorial (March 19, 2020)
Coronavirus shows it’s time to mend the safety net

The Star reviews some of the most deprived and then asks:  “Having now accepted that better job protections and income supports are necessary in this crisis, how can we go back to pretending they’re not needed all the time?”   Related article:  National Coalition to End Homelessness   Coronavirus and Homelessness   CBC News – Tim Ford   A universal basic income could help counter COVID-19’s economic damage   Related article: BC Tyee – Moira Wyton   How the Pandemic Is Already Slamming Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses   Related article: National Memo (US) – Joaquin Sapien, Ginger Thompson, Beena Raghavendran and Megan Rose   Social Workers Fear Rise In Domestic Violence During Quarantines

CBC News – Raisa Patel
Failing to self-isolate could put civil liberties in ‘jeopardy,’ Hajdu warns

The threat of the Coronavirus or Covid-19 and the civil disobedience of the Public Health advice to stay home and practice spatial separation is leading to a new constitutional issue.  Though not immediately clear, the threat is the suspension of civil liberties and constitutional rights, a drastic measure for any crisis.  Health Minister Patty Hajdu gave a stern warning to Canadians defying self-isolation orders Saturday, saying that a failure to follow public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 could “put our civil liberties in jeopardy…  “It makes governments have to look at more and more stringent measures to actually contain people in their own homes,” Hajdu said during a news conference attended by other cabinet ministers. “Our freedoms around the measures that we’re taking right now depend on people taking them seriously.”   Related article: Politico (US)  – Betsy Woodruff Swan  DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic – One of the requests to Congress would allow the department to petition a judge to indefinitely detain someone during an emergency.

VERA Institute (US)
Coronavirus Guidance for the Criminal and Immigration Legal Systems

The link to this trusted and extremely competent US resource offers a summary of resources available in a number of specific areas:  immigrations systems, police and law enforcement, parole, probation and clemency, prosecutors, defenders and courts, and jails, prisons, immigration detention, and youth facilities, all with detailed information of how the systems are working.  This site is easily the best in comprehensive information about the impact of coronavirus on the legal systems to date.    Related article: Washington Post (US) – Carolina Fredrickson   Don’t let constitutional rights be a victim of this virus