Personal visits resume at Hamilton's Barton Jail as COVID-19 restrictions loosen
Ministry says recent hunger strike didn't affect the decision to resume
The Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre is allowing personal visits again, a move the province says isn't related to a recent hunger strike by some of the inmates.
As COVID-19 restrictions loosen in institutions across the province, the Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed that visits are resuming "subject to enhanced health and safety procedures" at the Barton jail.
The decision comes less than a month after some inmates at the facility staged a hunger strike.
Prisoners began refusing some meals toward the end of June to protest the declining food quality at the prison. The Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project had said one of the concerns being raised was a call for the resumption of visits.
The group previously said that allowing visits again was a concession made during the strike.
The ministry opposes that claim, saying that the "recent meal refusal had no bearing on the decision to allow visits."
The ministry confirmed that inmates stopped refusing meals on June 30. Inmates are given "three nutritionally balanced meals plus one snack each day," it said, with food options that follow the country's food guide and contain nutrients for good health.
All visits must be pre-scheduled by a phone call to the jail. Once there, visitors must undergo a health screening and wear face masks or coverings.
Visits at most institutions across the province will take place through a protective physical barrier, the ministry says, although some institutions — such as Toronto South Detention Centre and South West Detention Centre — may offer options for video conferencing.
The visitation areas will be cleaned and disinfected before and after each visit. The ministry said public areas will continue to undergo "enhanced cleaning."