This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.

Prison justice society urges ‘drastic action’ as COVID-19 spreads in Calgary jail

Visits and programs were also suspended and inmates have been removed from food preparation duties

The president of the Alberta Prison Justice Society is calling for drastic action after almost two-thirds of inmates at the Calgary Correctional Centre contracted COVID-19.

Amanda Hart-Dowhun outlined the society’s concerns in an open letter to Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and his deputy, as well as to the Alberta Health Services medical director for correctional facilities and the director of the provincial jail.

The lawyer notes the outbreak has grown to infect at least 104 inmates and 20 staff in just over a week.

“You must take drastic action to prevent further spread of COVID amongst inmates and staff and to ensure that you are able to maintain basic human rights for the inmates in your care,” she wrote in the letter dated Monday.

“If you do not take drastic action now, you are risking the lives of a large number of people that you are responsible for keeping safe, and you will be holding inmates in conditions that clearly breach Canadian human rights standards.”

The letter cites a CBC News report in which infected inmates described being moved into solitary confinement, where they were living in filthy conditions, sleeping on the floor and receiving intermittent medical attention.

“The conditions outlined above are similar to what one would expect in a third world prison cell, and they are far below the legal standard for holding inmates in Canada. You must take all steps to remedy those conditions immediately,” Hart-Dowhun wrote.

That could require releasing inmates temporarily into the community, she said.

In a news release Friday, the vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said it’s like a “horror story” inside the jail and workers are exhausted and feel abandoned by the government.

“Our members are saying that inmates have only been wearing masks for a week,” said Bobby-Joe Borodey. “They were only given masks after the number of cases hit double figures.”

Blaise Boehmer, Madu’s press secretary, said in an emailed statement that several infectious disease protocols and safeguards were put in place when the pandemic hit in early March and remain in effect.

Those include identifying isolation spaces, testing all new admissions on arrival, enhanced cleaning and providing personal protective equipment to quarantining inmates outside of their cells when physical distancing is not possible.

Visits and programs were also suspended and inmates have been removed from food preparation duties.

“The measures listed above can result in changes including adjusted routines, such as when an inmate is out of their space and the timing of meals, phone access and laundry. Inmates still receive their basic needs, including regular meals, medications and mattresses,” Boehmer wrote.

“Despite the demands of some, Alberta will not simply open the doors and release prisoners en masse.”

Alberta Health Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

CalgaryCoronavirusprison

Just Posted

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

File photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal collision

One fatality in a serious collision on Highway 2A on June 18, 2021.

Participants in Rock Soup Food Bank’s fundraising drag race that took place on June 20, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ PipestoneFlyer.
Rock Soup Food Bank fundraises with literal drag race down main-street

Participants ran in drag down Wetaskiwin’s main street as a fundraiser for the food bank.

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read