COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: January 28, 2022
This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada's (CSC’s) stakeholders from the Commissioner of CSC.
I hope you had a good start to the New Year! I know that the Omicron variant has presented some challenges, but I am hopeful that the end of the pandemic is in sight. Here are some of the latest updates from CSC.
This time last year, CSC began rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to offenders across the country. Currently, over 83% of inmates have received two doses of the vaccine. CSC is also rolling out booster shots and to date, over 49% of inmates have received theirs. Vaccine data is available on our website:
We continue to roll these out and encourage offenders to get vaccinated. This remains our best defence against severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.
Over the holidays, we saw a rise in the number of cases in both staff and inmates at several of our institutions across the country as a result of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Everyone is working hard to contain and prevent the spread of the virus. Data on active inmate cases and outbreaks is available on our website:
Asymptomatic testing program
As an additional step to help prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in our institutions and community correctional centres, we have implemented an interim mandatory asymptomatic testing program for employees. This means that all staff are required to take a rapid test at home and verbally attest that they had a negative result prior to coming to work.
Changes to inmate purchasing
Amazon Canada will now be a new supplier for the provision of inmate personal property items. The agreement with Amazon Canada will provide inmates with:
- a wider selection
- greater availability of items, and
- more consistent delivery to institutions across the country
Implementation has begun at several institutions across the country and will continue progressively until all are on boarded with an expected date of March 1, 2022 for completion.
CSC will use other suppliers, as necessary, to ensure inmates have access to approved items for purchasing. The tender notice will remain permanently open for other parties to express an interest in being a supplier:
Addressing sexual coercion and violence (SCV) in federal corrections
The 2019-2020 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) included several recommendations related to SCV in penitentiaries. In addition to other actions that CSC is taking to address this important issue, we have been working collaboratively with Public Safety Canada in developing the parameters of a national prevalence study on SCV. A request for proposals for this study was issued by Public Safety on January 11, 2022:
The research findings will assist Public Safety and CSC in determining any additional next steps required to effectively address SCV, including informing effective prevention and intervention plans with consideration of vulnerable populations such as:
- inmates with prior trauma
- women, and
- those with mental health needs
Town hall discussions on the Women Employees Survey results
As a follow up to the National Employment Equity Survey of Women Employees completed in the spring of 2021, I have started hosting virtual regional town halls with employees who identify as women.
The survey measured responses on four themes from female employees:
- safe work environment
- gender-based discrimination
- harassment and violence
- work-life balance
- professional development, and
The town hall discussions focus on these themes. I welcome comments and suggestions from our employees about how CSC can make further improvements in these areas.
Anti-Racism, diversity and inclusion
CSC regularly shares resources and training opportunities related to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion on its intranet site (the Hub). We recently shared a series of videos with staff that were created by the Quebec Region about systemic racism. The videos aim to help CSC employees better understand systemic racism and recognize its impacts. By explaining myths and realities and revealing some of the unconscious bias, the videos support our organization’s commitment to:
- building a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and
- fostering a safe, respectful and healthy environment
The videos were developed in collaboration with the Quebec Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committee. I thank members for their support on this valuable project.
As I mentioned in my last message, Kirstan Gagnon, Assistant Commissioner of Communications and Engagement, is our executive champion of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion. She is building a unit dedicated to our efforts in this area, in addition to establishing synergies between other groups at CSC such as:
- the Employment Equity and Diversity Committee, and
- the Black Employees Network
I am please to announce that Edwidge Vincent will start on January 31, 2022 as the new Director of Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion. Edwidge has been with CSC since 2009. She has worked as a community parole officer and over the years, has held various management positions in the Operations sector. She has also been involved with the Employment Equity Committee of the Montreal-Metropolitan district for ten years.
Here are a few words from Edwidge:
“As a Black woman, I value the importance of wellness in the workplace, which is achieved through the inclusion and acceptance of employment equity and diversity groups. I strongly believe that the blending of our differences allows us to develop, grow and even surpass ourselves. We must show leadership and innovation in the fight against racism and inequity by implementing effective strategies and concrete actions. I am proud and happy to be part of this new team as Director of Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion. I want to promote and build a fair, equitable and inclusive organization for all.”
Bell Let’s Talk Day
Bell Let’s Talk Day was on Wednesday, January 26. It provided a reminder of the importance of talking about mental health and to help break down barriers. The pandemic, especially this current wave, continues to have an impact on everyone’s mental health and it is important to make efforts to eliminate the stigma associated with mental injuries. Peer support is one important way we can all make a difference, in addition to following five simple ways:
- Language matters
- Educate yourself
- Be kind
- Listen and ask, and
- Talk about it
CSC took the opportunity to reinforce and promote ways to maintain positive mental health. We know that the pandemic continues to pose challenges for everyone but it is essential that we exercise self-care. This also helps us also look out for others.
Letter writing kits for inmates
The Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN) has been working closely with CSC to distribute letter writing kits at institutions. These kits provide inmates with a creative opportunity to communicate with their family and friends. Each kit contains a brown envelope with:
- pieces of lined, blank and child-friendly stationery
- white envelopes, and
- a pen
CSC is proud of this partnership and had the unique opportunity to participate in a CFCN family support group in the fall, to answer questions from family members about the vaccine requirements during the pandemic.
To learn more about the great work they do, please visit their website. You can also check out the CSC Let’s Talk Express article about their work with CSC during the pandemic.
- Canadian Families and Corrections Network
- Working Together to Support the Families of Incarcerated Individuals
Inmates build doghouses for charity
Inmates from Grierson Institution in Edmonton, Alberta are honing their skills and contributing to an eco-friendly community partnership, which is benefitting people in need and some lucky local dogs. The inmates have been busy building new doghouses to donate to a local non-profit charitable organization, The Mustard Seed, who will raffle off the doghouses and use the proceeds to assist with the programs and services they offer to the homeless and people at risk.
Grierson Institution inmates transformed materials bound for a landfill into cozy canine quarters using scrap pallets and skids donated by Edmonton Institution. A local roofing company generously donated scrap shingles. Since the project began, they have already completed six doghouses with plans for another nine houses in the works. Inmates:
- learn valuable construction skills such as framing and shingling
- divert scrap lumber and shingles from the landfill, and
- demonstrate the great results that can come from collaboration between institutions and community partners
In closing, I hope you are enjoying winter as much as you can. I hope that you all are taking good care of yourselves and those around you. Thank you for your support and collaboration.
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