Covid-19 update for correctional stakeholders: April 15, 2020

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

Below is an update on Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC) operations as we work hard to navigate this public heath situation. Things continue to evolve and I encourage you to visit CSC’s website and social media channels for updates. We also continue to have discussions with our partners and provide verbal updates – we are using as many channels as possible, including our website, to ensure everyone is kept informed. We are also communicating directly with inmates.

CSC is committed to protecting health and safety of staff, inmates and public during these extraordinary times. I would like to extend my thanks to CSC staff, volunteers, partners, stakeholders and everyone who has sent messages of support. We are in this together.

Institutional Updates

CSC is taking measures to ensure health and safety, following the advice of local public health agencies and working collaboratively with union partners.

To protect its employees, CSC is doing ongoing prevention education and awareness; active screening of all critical staff entering the institutions; has equipped its correctional staff with the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks; has enhanced its cleaning protocols, including disinfecting common areas of contact; has modified its institutional routines and rosters to minimize the spread of the virus; engages with local public health when an employee tests positive to implement a number of measures, such as tracing contacts, ensuring self-isolation, testing others as needed, and disinfecting the site; and has implemented its own tracing capability.

Inmate visits, temporary absences, work releases, programming and non-essential services continue to be suspended. We know this can have an impact on the inmate population and their families. To alleviate some of this impact, CSC has temporarily waived food, accommodation and telephone deductions, twice has added additional minutes to the inmates’ calling cards, and has maintained the inmates’ level of pay.

From Feb 25-March 24, 12,000 inmates placed calls and 1300 video calls, which is our highest average yet. CSC is working with Shared Services Canada to increase bandwidth to support video visitation. We appreciate the important role that families play during this time and encourage them to keep on connecting with loved ones. Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN) mails out Letter Kits and Paper Hugs to families to help families connect with their loved one inside. Everything is free so just send them a message here or contact CFCN on their Facebook page.

Written communiques from the Commissioner are being sent to inmates on a weekly basis to update them on measures we are taking. The Warden meets with inmate committees to discuss them and printed copies of each message are distributed to each and every inmate. They include recent updates, preventative measures being taken and awareness about COVID-19.

We post daily updates online with a table of data by Province that outlines all testing conducted on inmates, including results. You can find it here.

Health

CSC has dedicated health services, medical professionals, and medications and equipment, including personal protective equipment in all institutions. CSC has enhanced its cleaning protocols, including high traffic areas and high contact surfaces. In addition, we have put in place education and prevention campaigns, including effective hygiene practices and the need for physical distancing. We have asked everyone to self-monitor their health and inmates are encouraged to report any symptoms to health care staff.

We are actively screening anyone who must enter our institutions. If anyone has the slightest of symptoms, they are not allowed to enter. If employees test positive or are symptomatic, they must self isolate at home and follow public health guidance. They can only return to work once medically cleared. Correctional staff who work in the institutions are provided with masks to wear, especially where physical distancing is not possible.

Inmates that are admitted or transferred to federal custody from the province are required to self-isolate for 14 days. Symptomatic or inmates who test positive for COVID are medically isolated to prevent the spread of the virus. They are also provided with a mask. Furthermore, CSC has minimized the interactions of inmates between ranges to reduce potential spread.

CSC has brought in low oxygen flow equipment to treat milder cases and has established protocols with local hospitals for when an offender tests positive and needs care outside of the institution.

CSC has also increased its tracing capabilities by training over 100 employees to carry out this role.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

We continue work to ensure we have stock and supplies of PPE, like masks, gloves and other protective wear, hand sanitizer, cleaning products, kitchen utensils, toilet paper and all that we need to operate. We just received a shipment that is on its way to institutions. Many people work behind the scenes to make this happen and we are thankful.

Community Corrections

CSC is in regular contact with its community partners, including Community Residential Facilities (CRF), to ensure we work together to address any challenges presented by the current situation. Community Residential Facilities continue to follow public health guidance and we are working to ensure they have the proper supports and resources during this time. CSC and PBC are also working collaboratively with their CRF partners by looking at ways to free up space by removing residency conditions for those that have appropriate and supportive private accommodation. In addition, the PBC has recently expanded the authority for Area Directors to authorize medical leave from a CRF from 15 to 30 days so offenders who require to self-isolate can do so at home instead of the CRF.

Closing

CSC takes its mandate very seriously and understands that there is no greater responsibility than having the care and custody of other human beings.

CSC employees, especially those who are working in our institutions, on the front-line, and in communities supervising offenders are working tirelessly day in and day out to keep our operations going under exceptional circumstances.

In closing, I would like to express my gratitude for your continued commitment to CSC, its mandate and the health and safety of offenders in our care, their families and our staff. Thank you for the work you are doing as stakeholders or as citizens who volunteer with CSC. Your collaboration is appreciated. Please feel free to share these messages in your networks. Please stay safe and healthy.

Thank you for your support.

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