(Black Press Media files

(Black Press Media files

Rally calls for safe release of prisoners as COVID-19 runs rampant at Mission Institution

Mission Institution is experiencing the largest prison outbreak in Canada

A justice advocacy group says it wants prisoners at a federal institution in British Columbia ravaged by a COVID-19 outbreak to know there are people in the community fighting for their safety.

Meenakshi Mannoe of the Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee says members were rallying outside Mission Institution Sunday and making noise from their cars or at a safe physical distance.

The committee is calling for the urgent care of all prisoners across Canada and the immediate release of detainees to ensure adequate physical distancing and quarantine measures.

Inmates’ sentences should not include exposure to a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Mannoe said.

“However we feel about the crimes people do, they’re not supposed to be subject to further punishment inside,” she said.

“We want to let them know we’re out here making noise and we’re calling for action from all levels of government and the Correctional Service of Canada to make sure people have safe living conditions.”

The group is also calling for broader testing of all prisoners, and daily updates with details of the situation for their family members.

It is also among more than three dozen organizations demanding an immediate inquest into the death of an inmate at the prison last month.

Mission Institution is experiencing the largest prison outbreak in Canada. The B.C. government said Saturday that 133 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Across Canada, 290 federal inmates have been infected, with 155 having recovered, according to federal figures released Saturday.

There were 41 active cases among correctional officers among a total of 84 who have tested positive since the pandemic began, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said Saturday.

The Correctional Service of Canada said in a statement Sunday that it is working to limit the spread of the virus at each of its prisons.

Inmates who show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 are medically isolated and both staff and inmates are provided with masks and information about how to use them, it said. Enhanced cleaning protocols are in place, including disinfecting common areas and high-contact surfaces.

“Every effort is made to provide inmates on medical isolation with as much time out of cell as possible while respecting strong infection and prevention principles in order to contain the spread of COVID-19,” it said in an emailed statement.

Mission Institution: Voices from inside Canada’s worst COVID-19 prison outbreak

The correctional service has also suspended visits, temporary absences unless medically necessary and all inter-regional and international transfers of inmates.

On April 25, the correctional service said all inmates at the medium-security Mission prison had been tested for the virus, although new cases continue to be identified.

Based on expert recommendations, the prison installed new hand-washing stations, boosted hygiene supplies and now has nurses at the site around the clock and physician coverage every day.

“These are unprecedented times and we are working diligently, and often around the clock, to prevent the spread of the virus. The situation around COVID-19 is both challenging and rapidly evolving and we continue to adapt our response and do everything in our power to keep our employees and inmates safe,” the correctional service says in a statement.

The Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee organized its first rally outside Mission Institution following an inmate’s death on April 15 from apparent complications related to COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, the group organized an annual memorial for prisoners who have died behind bars.

When the committee calls for the release of inmates, it doesn’t mean simply setting people free, Mannoe said. It means allowing them space to self-isolate or quarantine with community supports in place for rehabilitation.

“We need to release people into communities in a safe and just way that services the prisoners themselves and the people who have been impacted by their harm,” Mannoe said.

“I’m not saying open the doors, I’m saying let’s resource people and get them out of a system that’s not serving them and a system that a lot of survivors (of crime) would also say doesn’t necessarily lead to justice on their end.”

A COVID-positive prisoner at Joliette Institute in Quebec filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on April 21 against Correctional Service Canada’s handling of the pandemic.

On April 23, the Correctional Service of Canada said it was “conducting an analysis of the offender population” so it could make release recommendations.

The Parole Board of Canada said it had been trying to streamline processes and speed up decisions. In some cases, parolees might be allowed to move home instead of to a halfway house, the board said.

To combat possible infections in its prisons, Newfoundland and Labrador has released 65 inmates under the public health emergency the province declared on March 18. So far, the province’s jails have been COVID-free.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

A company with a lab in Nanaimo has federal government approval to manage research intended to standardize extraction of a psychedelic compound, psilocybin, from magic mushrooms. (Wikipedia Commons photo)
Experts favour use of magic mushroom derivatives for research into mental health treatment

Educators, researchers see value in studying psilocybin’s effect treating mental health and addiction

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
Councillors have a chance to tweak project timelines in City of Nanaimo’s financial plan

Potential property tax increase now at 3.0 per cent, budget meetings continuing

The driver of a car that crashed in downtown Nanaimo Tuesday is facing multiple charges. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP recommending impaired driving charge after crash into lamp post in downtown Nanaimo

Driver sped away after ‘heated argument’ in another part of downtown, say RCMP

A 53-unit building to be built at 6010 Hammond Bay Rd. (City of Nanaimo image)
Province announces support for 50 units of affordable housing on Hammond Bay Road

Building B.C. Community Housing Fund partners with Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society

The driver of a car that crashed in downtown Nanaimo Tuesday is facing multiple charges. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP recommending impaired driving charge after crash into lamp post in downtown Nanaimo

Driver sped away after ‘heated argument’ in another part of downtown, say RCMP

Beef to the business at the mall that told me I had to provide personal information for COVID tracing. After assuring me I would not receive marketing e-mails, they proceeded to send me e-mails promoting their business.
Beefs & Bouquets, Dec. 2

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Eric Byres, industrial control engineer and CEO of Lantzville-based aDolus Technology, didn’t expect his company to win the 2020 New Ventures B.C. competition, but says he will use the $135,000 in first-place prize money to hire more development staff. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Lantzville-based cyber-security start-up wins $135K innovation competition

Industrial control systems security company, aDolus Technology, wins New Ventures B.C.’s top prize

Island Health is expanding COVID-19 testing in Nanaimo with a new testing location at Vancouver Island University. (News Bulletin file photo)
Island Health expands COVID-19 testing in Nanaimo

Health authority opens new testing site with double the capacity at Vancouver Island University

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Jon Lefebure went back to construction after losing the 2018 mayor’s post in North Cowichan to work on the Cottages On Willow. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Former Island mayor retools priorities with construction project

Fresh air a benefit and satisfaction results from building eight-unit housing complex in Chemainus

Most Read