20 inmates test positive as COVID-19 outbreak declared at Calgary Correctional Centre
Criminal defence lawyer says Alberta's jails are entering a dangerous situation
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the Calgary Correctional Centre.
According to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, 24 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the facility. Twenty of them are inmates.
"Centre-wide testing and isolations are in place, and outbreak protocols have been implemented," Hinshaw said Thursday.
Given those numbers, Edmonton-based criminal defence lawyer Tom Engel said he was concerned Alberta jails were entering a dangerous situation.
In Engel's view, Alberta jails should implement ways to alleviate the conditions of being locked down for longer hours given isolation protocols.
"But the main thing they could do is start granting temporary releases," he said. "They have to start granting temporary absence permits to people who are vulnerable, people who are sick right now.
"They have to reduce the population immediately. Alberta was doing pretty well at the outset. But this isn't working anymore, so they have to go to the next level."
The prison population at the Calgary Correctional Centre can change on a day-to-day basis but the facility has a capacity of 427.
According to a statement provided by Blaise Boehmer, press secretary to Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, there were no positive inmate cases of COVID-19 at the centre between March 15 and Oct. 19.
"As the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases increased in our communities, it was expected we would see the same in Alberta's provincial correctional facilities," Boehmer said.
Boehmer said the facility would continue to implement the following:
- centre-wide testing
- AHS looking after positive tested inmates in isolated units
- positive officers isolating at home
- all non-urgent movement within and outside of the centre temporarily being shut down
Alberta reported 427 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, once again breaking records as the province hit a total of 3,519 active cases of the illness.
There are now 1,260 active cases in Calgary, up from 1,174 reported on Wednesday.