Release now…

April 1, 2020

CTV News – Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press
Consider releasing some inmates to stem COVID-19 in prisons, minister requests

At the apparent urging of Minister Bill Blair, and the apparent support of Prime Minister Trudeau, Corrections Canada and the National Parole Board are to review the current status of federal inmates with a view to determining who can be safely released, all in the effort to reduce prison populations and chances of Covid-19 getting a foothold in the prisons.  All told there are some 14,000 in federal prisons.  “The Parole Board welcomed the minister’s direction and said it was working closely with officials from the Correctional Service and Public Safety “to ensure a broad number of options are considered to safely release offenders into the community in response to the COVID-19 situation.”   Related article: CBC News – Kathleen Harris   Bill Blair asks prison, parole heads to consider releasing some inmates to stop spread of COVID-19   Related article: Policy Options – Dr. Jane Philpott and Senator Kim Pate   Time running out to protect prisoners and prison staff from calamitySeveral measures should be taken immediately to prevent a catastrophic outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada’s overcrowded and underprepared prisons.

CTV News – Canadian Press
Two inmates, nine employees at Quebec prison test positive for COVID-19

These links confirm suggestions that the prison staff are every bit in danger if the virus gets into the prison and there is no immediate and effective response.  One obvious response is to evacuate as many as possible to both eliminate overcrowding and to provide space.  Another is to improve the medical services for those who are left.  Yet another consideration is assistance to those released with living arrangements and funds for living expenses.   Related article: Voices Inside and Out – Contributors  Catherine Latimer and Lawrence Da Silva   Commentary: COVID-19 in Port Cartier Federal Prison   Related article:  Florida Phoenix – Laura Cassells State prison system reports 12 employees infected by coronavirus; no inmates yet   Related article:  CNN (US) – David Shortell   Federal prisons will confine inmates to cells for 2 weeks due to coronavirus   Related article: Washington Post – Jonathan Capehart   ‘No such thing as social distancing’ when you’re incarcerated   Related article: National Post – John Ivison   COVID-19 could be a get out of jail card for Canada’s low-risk prisoners – The alternative is surely turmoil in our jails and an eruption of sick prisoners, competing with law-abiding citizens for ventilators  Related article: Kitchener Today – Ben Eppel Inmate at Grand Valley Institution for Women tests positive for COVID-19 – They are being isolated from the general population

National Newswatch – Liam Casey
Guards refuse to work in Ottawa jail over lack of COVID-19 screening protocols

The evidence is already mounting that prison staff is as susceptible to both bringing the Covid-19 virus to the prisons and to getting it from infected inmates.  Little wonder then that the guards are resisting the workplace.  The guards want ‘active screening’, a not unreasonable request.  “Active screening would be having some individual that is at the front door actively asking the questions that are fairly common now out in the public. So asking whether they are having [a] fever, new cough [or] difficulty breathing. As well as have they traveled outside of Canada in the last 14 days. Also to take a temperature to check for fever,” said Ryan Graham, the acting co-chair for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union health and safety committee.”     Related article: CBS (Sacramento, Ca) – California Seeks 3,500 New Inmate Releases over Coronavirus   Related article: The Marshall Project (US)    As a Mom Working In a Prison, I Worry About bringing  Coronavirus Home – “I tell my husband to keep my son in another room, while I put my uniform in a trash bag and take a long shower.”

 The Lawyer’s Daily – Beverly McLachlin
Access to Justice: Justice in the time of social distancing

The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has some very pointed advice to the legal system and all those who people it:  “COVID-19 is highlighting for us what we already knew — that the justice system needs to be revamped and reformed. The system has been running on the edge of viability for years, struggling to maintain backlogs and reasonable hearing times. Now, with courts shutting down, things will only get worse. People will have even less opportunity to find support for their life challenges and cases will either be foregone or pile up. If we care about accessible justice, we must stop living on the edge and make our procedures and hearings more efficient.”  She includes six items where change can be achieved as well.

Covid-19 as it impacts on Indian Country – Pam Palmater

The link is to a YouTube video that speaks comprehensively of the realities and impact of Covid-19 on all the diverse locations in North America.  The video is 12 minutes long and is most helpful information about yet another vulnerable population who bear the brunt of most of Canada’s troubles.   Related article: Mother Jones – Madison Pauly and Julia Lurie  Domestic Violence 911 Calls Are Increasing. Coronavirus Is Likely to Blame – Experts worry that social distancing and stay-at-home-orders are exacerbating abuse.