COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: May 13, 2020

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

It has been eight weeks since we quickly shifted the way we worked to focus our efforts on the Canada-wide fight against COVID-19. Many of us also transitioned to a “work from home” model to reduce the number of employees in our buildings and implemented measures at our sites to limit comings and goings. This has had an impact on many of you, our partners and volunteers, as well.

We are starting to hear about different provinces and territories making plans to ease restrictions that would see certain businesses and services reopen over time. These have been trying times for everyone across the country and I would like to provide an update on the situation, what is next and work underway to shape our new normal.

National Nursing Week

This week is National Nursing Week. It is a wonderful opportunity to express gratitude to Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC) more than 900 nurses who are working tirelessly to ensure our institutions and communities are safe during these unprecedented times.

This week is an opportunity to say a big thank you to all of our nurses and health care professionals for their exceptional work in providing ongoing medical care to offenders during these challenging times and throughout the year. Whether providing prevention education, palliative care, addressing trauma, managing infectious diseases, or administering harm reductions measures, their ongoing commitment and expertise is commendable.

If you can, please take the time to give a shout out to nurses across the country.

Update on COVID-19

With your input, we have done a tremendous amount of work to prevent and manage this public health crisis and continue to learn about the virus and adapt our response as the situation evolves.

Thankfully, we are starting to turn a corner as we see many of those that had COVID-19 making a full recovery. For our employees, out of 123 who tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, 87– or over 70% - have now fully recovered.

To date, there are 123 active COVID-19 cases among inmates at three of our 43 institutions, in Quebec and British Columbia. This means that out of 333 positive tests since the beginning of this pandemic, 218 inmates have now fully recovered.

The health and safety of our employees and offenders in our care remain our top priority. We have put in place enhanced cleaning protocols, including disinfecting common areas and high-contact surfaces. In addition, we continue to actively screen anyone that must enter our institutions or community offices.

An emerging body of evidence suggests that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals may transmit COVID-19. That is why CSC has provided masks to all staff and inmates, in order to protect them from individuals who may unknowingly have, and transmit, COVID-19.

Please know that we continuously evaluate our practices and protocols, and engage public health and infection prevention and control experts to guide our response, see what we can do better and implement recommendations.

Shaping the “New” Normal

Many of you are probably wondering when we may be reinstating visits to inmates, volunteer, chaplaincy, Elder activities and programming for inmates. Of course, the health and safety of our employees and offenders, and the public, is our biggest priority and the timeline of when that will happen will likely vary across the country, based on provincial and local circumstances and public health advice.

To tackle our path forward, I have stood up a working group made up of subject matter experts, union representatives and senior managers from different sectors of CSC, including regional representation. This group started meeting this week and will examine the activities that may first resume, the safeguards that need to be put in place, and how we will clearly communicate the changes.

There is definitely no “one-sized fits all” approach to how our different sectors, community resources and regions operate. I have asked that they keep in mind that our eventual return to a new normal is gradual, in-line with provincial and federal guidelines, and relevant to local circumstances. Any changes to our operations will be communicated to all of you in a timely fashion.

Sharing information

CSC’s website continues to be updated with testing information and all communications to inmates and our employees are regularly posted on our COVID-19 page.

We continue to provide information to stakeholders through notes, various meetings and have received feedback and questions from many of you through letters and email. Thank you for your input and involvement. We appreciate the positive partnerships we have and the openness and transparency we have been able to achieve during this public health crisis.

As relentless as this year has been so far, I am very proud of our team and how collaboratively everyone has been working together. Everyone has pulled together to help us overcome challenges and deliver results in fulfilling our mandate.

I hope this information and continued updates are helpful. Thank you for your ongoing engagement.

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