Public Safety Minister, Bill Blair asks the heads of Canada’s prison system and parole board to look into early release for some federal inmates to reduce the impact of COVID-19 behind behind bars.
His spokesperson, Mary-Liz Power opined the government should understand the “unique risks” inherent to prisons.
She says pandemic is evolving as well the responses to it.
“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.”
Prisoners’ advocates are campaigning for the release of lower-risk offenders after the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) confirmed COVID-19 cases in two penitentiaries — and are warning that maintaining crowded conditions behind bars during a global pandemic could have disastrous consequences.
First cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by CSC at two federal prisons in Quebec, with both inmates and staff testing positive.
As of Wednesday morning, CSC confirmed that three inmates had tested positive: two at Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec and one at Ontario’s Grand Valley Institution for women.
Additionally, 18 employees have tested positive: 11 at Port-Cartier, six at Joliette Institution in Quebec and one at Beaver Creek institution in Ontario.
Justin Piché, a criminologist who runs the Criminalization and Punishment Project at the University of Ottawa, postulates that CSC must engage in a depopulation strategy to save lives.
He said some prisoners could be safely released with food and housing supports whilst the halfway houses could free up room for federal prisoners nearing parole eligibility.