Prisoner death toll will mount without releasing most vulnerable inmates – Policy Options

by ahnationtalk on April 23, 2020288 Views

Prisoners’ lives are at risk as the virus has the potential to spread like “wildfire.” The Public Safety minister must act decisively.

The socio-economic inequalities in any given society will always be highlighted during a national crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Long before COVID-19 hit Canada, we could predict with a fair degree of certainty which groups would be most at risk.

From a health perspective, the science tells us that the elderly and those with compromised immune systems will be especially vulnerable to the more serious aspects of the disease. However, there are other people who are often hidden from view, and who are especially vulnerable, including children in youth corrections; and adults in prison. We know that Indigenous peoples are over-represented in all those categories.

Healthcare professionals working in prisons throughout the country have advised correctional authorities to release prisoners. Measures taken by prison authorities so far have included issuing directives relating to social distancing or hygiene that too often cannot be followed in shared, overcrowded living spaces, or imposing extensive lockdowns that put human rights at risk but have not kept people safe or healthy. There are outbreaks and the virus is spreading fast. There has already been one death in Mission, a federal penitentiary for men in BC. Without immediate and decisive preventative measures, the death toll will soon mount.

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