Seven percent of all inmates in prisons in Alberta since the pandemic began have passed a positive test for COVID-19.
From March 15, 2020 to December 31, 2021, 2,033 of the 28,787 juvenile and adult inmates were infected with COVID-19, according to data released by the Alberta Justice Department. The number of employees of penitentiary institutions suffering from this disease is 419 people.
According to data compiled by a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa as part of the Crime and Punishment Education Project since the start of the pandemic, Alberta has the highest per capita population in all states and territories in terms of positive inmates. takes over.
“Alberta has done very, very badly compared to other jurisdictions,” Justin Piche said. “It’s very interesting to see how many cases have occurred at these meetings.”
Piche said other regions are more willing with proactive disclosure. The numbers he was presented with were the most comprehensive numbers from Alberta to date. They were more than the numbers he posted on the Internet two weeks ago.
“It’s like trying to walk in the desert of transparency when tracking COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff in Alberta County jails,” Piche said.
Criminal defense attorney Amanda Hart-Dowhun said she was disappointed but not surprised by the COVID cases that have accumulated in Alberta prisons and remand prisons.
“It’s an important human rights issue and it affects disproportionately people in poverty, indigenous people and other vulnerable populations,” Hart-Dowhun said.
“I was just amazed”
The Peace River Correctional Center is the only managed correctional facility in the province, and no cases of COVID have been reported among staff or inmates.
According to the Alberta Justice Department, the Edmonton Investigation Center (ERC) is the most severely affected state correctional facility, with 861 inmates and 153 staff members tested positive by the end of last year. In second place on the list is the Calgary Remand Prison, which has 489 positive inmates and 85 staff.
Criminal defense attorney Matthew Wegener predicts a jump in ERC cases based on his experience at the facility when he visited two clients on Sunday.
“My first client was brought in and he immediately told me I had COVID-19,” Wegener said.
The client showed him a letter indicating that he had been tested two days before Alberta health services. Wegener was surprised, and the staff allowed him to meet in person.
“Usually in all my past experiences, if someone is infected with COVID-19, they are in isolation and the ERC won’t let us meet in person,” he said.
Wegener met with the client for an hour and a half.
“When my case was over, they went to get the second prisoner and in about two minutes they brought him in and immediately put him in a room,” the lawyer said. “They didn’t clean up at all, and I was amazed.”
The second prisoner was not COVID-positive. Wegener insisted they move them to another room.
He said that as the ERC escalated, inmates were locked up and unable to perform routine cleaning tasks.
“The showers aren’t being cleaned right now and haven’t been cleaned in weeks,” Wegener said. “So you leave it for 15 minutes to take a shower. It’s dirty. They’re not cleaning it between uses.”
“It’s a horrible set of situations. It’s very sad if they don’t do the basic guidelines for two years after the pandemic.”
No outbreaks have been reported
Last week, Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dean Xinshou announced a change in the epidemic report due to resource problems.
Xinshou said his office will continue to investigate cases in dangerous public places such as correctional facilities, but will no longer report epidemics in public.
“I don’t think the refusal to declare epidemics is actually based on resources,” said attorney Amanda Hart-Dowhun.
“It’s like a political decision. They don’t want people to know.”
An Alberta health official said there were now epidemics in facilities in three provinces.
There are currently 67 inmates and four staff members who passed a positive test at the Calgary Remand Center, 21 detainees and 12 staff members at the Edmonton remand center, and 15 detainees and two staff members who are currently COVID-positive at the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Facility.
Piche said he was surprised by the Alberta government’s decision to stop publicly reporting on the prison boom.
“When COVID-infection occurs behind bars, it doesn’t stay there,” Piche said.
He pointed to the staff who come and go every day, as well as the release of prisoners to the community.
“Is it a good idea to fly blindly in the middle of a flight when you haven’t reached your destination?”
NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir also called on Alberta Health to continue reporting epidemics in correctional facilities.