Detainees May Enjoy Early Release, Suggests Minister Blair

Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair has asked Correctional Service and the Parole Board to consider the early release of certain inmates to limit the spread of COVID-19 in penitentiaries.
The government is committed to protecting inmates, correctional staff and the public, given the unique risks posed by coronavirus to penitentiaries, said a ministerial spokesperson, Mary-Liz Power.

“Minister Blair has asked the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Chair of the Parole Board to determine if measures could be taken to facilitate the early release of certain offenders.”

Neither the Correctional Service nor the Parole Board commented on Minister Blair’s request on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged last week that inmates are more at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 and passing it on to the rest of the prison population.

We learned Monday that two detainees at the maximum security penitentiary of Port-Cartier, on the North Shore, had been infected with the coronavirus. These are the first confirmed cases of contamination of inmates in a federal prison. The two detained patients are isolated from the rest of the prison population and solitary confinement has been imposed throughout the penitentiary. In addition, Correctional Service indicated that nine employees of the Port-Cartier penitentiary had already received positive results before.

The union is against

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which represents employees of 49 federal institutions, said on Monday that “the release of a few individuals will not solve the potential spread of COVID-19 in our institutions. It will only increase the risk for Canadians. ”

“We only have to remember the recent tragedy experienced last January in Quebec where an inmate on day parole murdered a citizen. Even prisoners on conditional release can pose a threat to society, ”said the union.

“Canada is in crisis and its citizens are already facing a potentially deadly threat. It is irresponsible to introduce new threats into our communities (…) Emphasis must be placed on modifying the routines in our establishments in order to respect the social distancing imposed and the directives of self-isolation ”, believes the union.

The Correctional Service of Canada has already suspended visits from the public to inmates in all institutions.

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