With the pandemic of COVID-19, the detainees are locked in their units with very little time to go outside to take the air. The size of the units, consisting of a number of cells, may vary from one institution to the other.
6 June 2020 11h31
“It’s ready”: fear of violence post-confinement in the penitentiary
The canadian Press
VANCOUVER – Jennifer Larue just wants that her husband could hold their baby in her arms, but the outbreak of COVID-19 in canadian penitentiaries mean that he could not see his wife or his children in person for weeks.
The young mother among the many relatives of detainees, which, like the union of correctional officers, expressed their concerns with respect to conditions of confinement and the possibility of violence after the lifting of these measures.
The COVID-19 has swept various penitentiaries across the country, with the worst outbreak recorded at the Mission Institution in British Columbia, where more than 130 inmates and staff members have received a positive test. A prisoner has succumbed to the disease.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, physician, chief medical health officer for British Columbia, said last week that the procedures used to limit the spread of the virus in the penitentiary in the Fraser valley were now used in all federal correctional institutions.
The detainees are locked in their units with very little time to go outside to take the air. The size of the units, consisting of a number of cells, may vary from one institution to the other. At Mission, a standard unit houses 30 to 40 inmates.
The duration of isolation measures also varies across the country. At Mission, the inmates are in their 13th week of confinement. In Ontario, some of them are in their 11th week. The husband of Jennifer Larue, Norman, is confined to his unit for two weeks at the Pacific Institution in Abbotsford, also in British Columbia.
Joanne Fry, whose son Nathan is serving a sentence of 25 years to Mission, is concerned about what will happen after the lifting of the containment measures. “Thirteen weeks in a cage the size of a (bathroom) to wreak havoc, does it. Usually, when (the prisoners) come out of a prolonged isolation, the violence and the problems intensify.”
Access to trainings and meetings such as those of Narcotics Anonymous has been limited or outright cut off, leaving the prisoners with more free time and less valve to spend their energy, argues dr Fry, who joined in a request for collective action against the correctional Service of Canada in connection with the outbreak at the Mission.
Kelly, who preferred to conceal his family name for fear of retaliation against her husband behind bars, says she can hear the tone up in the background when she is talking on the phone with him. “It prepares and honestly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t already arrived,” she says, referring to a potential outbreak of violence.
Her husband is confined with ten other inmates in the Institution Beaver Creek in Ontario. He is allowed out for an hour and a half per day, in a space much smaller than before. Kelly is concerned for the mental health of detainees. Denied visits from their loved ones, they can only see them by video conference for 30 minutes, once per week, and this, if they have the chance.
The president of the Union of Canadian correctional officers, Jeff Wilkins, is also bothered by the reaction of prisoners when the containment and stringent to be relaxed.
And the stress of working full pandemic was exacerbated by conflicting messages about the port and of the reserves of protective equipment such as masks. Mr. Wilkins reported that at the beginning of the pandemic, correctional Service Canada has deterred the officers wear protective equipment. Now, they face sanctions if they do not carry this same equipment.
Jennifer Larue and Joanne Fry both want that correctional Service Canada should show more transparency with regard to its plans for the resumption of visits and continuity of care to inmates.
“It is extremely difficult, said Ms. Larue. It is necessary that the people know that it is human beings.”