COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: March 23, 2020

This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada's (CSC’s) stakeholders from the Commissioner of CSC.

I wanted to provide you with an update on the COVID-19 situation, further to my note of March 17.

Firstly, I want to say that I am proud of our employees and the collaborative efforts of partners as we work to keep staff, offenders and the public safe and informed during this public health crisis. These are exceptional circumstances, and everyone’s contribution to Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC) rapid response is greatly appreciated. We are lucky to be surrounded by so many dedicated, hard-working and committed people.

In these exceptional times, we are focused on critical operations as we work to maintain public safety while minimizing the risks associated with COVID-19. Everyone’s health and safety is top of mind.

Status of inmate health

At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within federal institutions.

CSC has protocols in place to assess inmates exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. We continue to monitor the situation and are equipped to test and provide clinical interventions as required. CSC remains in close contact with local public health.

We have dedicated health care services in our institutions and are prepared to handle cases of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19. We deal with influenza each year and have established protocols for medical isolation and treatment.

We continue to actively monitor, plan and engage with authorities and our employees. CSC has modified routines in institutions to allow health services staff can focus on the health of staff and inmates. As this evolves, we continue to take daily operational and clinical decisions to minimize risks associated with the virus.

In addition to readiness on a number of fronts, we have enhanced cleaning protocols and have increased prevention awareness in all workplaces. Regular communiqués are sent to inmates to convey measures in place to minimize impacts.

Limiting comings and goings:

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all of its institutions, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has suspended:

For critical services where entry into an institution must proceed, these individuals are being actively screened prior to entering.

Connecting families during this time

Family contact is essential and we want to ensure inmates can stay in touch with family and friends while visitation is suspended. To help with this, we have encouraged use of telephone and video visitation. We have also waived telephone, accommodation and food deductions from inmate pay for 3 months. We are also looking at other options to facilitate contact and ensure calm is maintained in our institutions.

We have already seen an increase in video visitation, projecting approximately 1300 video visits for the one-month period starting on March 13, 2020. This demonstrates the equivalent of the highest month’s usage for the past year. It means they are taking advantage of it, which is good.

Preparedness and response

CSC has Business Continuity Plans in place for all of its facilities, including, but not limited to, institutions, parole offices and headquarters. Included within each plan is a Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan, which addresses scenarios and responses for health services, security operations and food services.

Working with the public

CSC has been liaising with stakeholders and partners, and the OCI, on all new measures and we continue to provide updates through News Releases and social media. We have sent out information to the Community Based Residential Facilities. CSC has also been working collaboratively with unions.

We have done targeted outreach to Citizen Advisory Committees to encourage CACs to remain in contact by telephone and email. It is important for CAC’s to uphold the mandate to liaise and advise during this pandemic.

For victims, we are reaching out to cancel previous notifications for temporary absences for inmates and Work Releases. We have put notices on the Victims Portal, the CSC victim services web page, and social media.

The facts about COVID-19

In closing, we appreciate your support during these unprecedented times. We send out messages to employees regularly and these are posted on our website. We are also sharing information and updates on our social media channels. I hope that you will be able to help CSC amplify these messages to ensure that we circulate factual information.

Thank you for your cooperation and ongoing collaboration. It means a lot.

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