Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has advised the federal prison service to consider early release for offenders in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons.
According to the Canadian Press, “two inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at Port-Cartier Institution, a maximum-security facility in Quebec—the first confirmed cases involving prisoners in a federal institution.” Nine employees at Port-Cartier have also tested positive for coronavirus.
Mary Liz-Power, spokeswoman for Blair, issued a statement that read: “This pandemic continues to evolve and we have been clear that our response will as well.” Power added that the Trudeau government is committed to protecting inmates and that the COVID-19 presents a unique risk for spread in prison.
“Minister Blair has asked both the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada to determine whether there are measures that could be taken to facilitate early release for certain offenders.”
However, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers disputes Blair’s claim that releasing prisoners will prevent spread of coronavirus.
“The focus must be on changing routines in our institutions to respect social distancing and self-isolation directives to every extent possible,” UCCO said in a statement.
“Canada is in crisis, and its citizens are already dealing with a potentially deadly threat. It is irresponsible to introduce further threats into our communities.”