Nearly 100 inmates infected with COVID-19 after outbreak at Montreal's Bordeaux jail

A COVID-19 outbreak is raging in Montreal's Bordeaux jail, with nearly 100 inmates currently infected in addition to 17 staff members.

Several sectors locked down; 17 guards have also tested positive for the virus

Several sectors of the Bordeaux Jail are under lockdown. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

A COVID-19 outbreak is raging in Montreal's Bordeaux jail, with nearly 100 inmates currently infected in addition to 17 staff members.

Over the past week, cases jumped from six to 94. Among staff, around 50 employees are in preventive isolation in addition to the 17 who have tested positive.

Several sectors have been locked down, with inmates confined to their cells.

Vickie Maisonneuve, whose boyfriend is currently in the jail, said the situation was wearing him down. He hasn't been able to leave his cell for a week or shower for four days, she said.

"He's a strong person psychologically and physically, but he's really tired, it's a really difficult situation," she said.

Quebec's Public Security Ministry says confinement measures are usually imposed for 14 days in areas where there's a positive case. Inmates have limited use of showers during that time, though they have access to a sink and hygiene products.

The threat of strict confinement measures has meant some inmates are concealing their symptoms or refusing to be tested. 

Ted Rutland, an associate professor at Concordia University and a member of the prisoners' rights organization Anti-Carceral Group, said this is a consequence of the Bordeaux jail's punitive response to a positive test.

"They not only punish the person who has the symptoms, by putting that person in a two-week, 24 hour per day quarantine, but they put the entire sector in which that prisoner is located under 24-hour lockdown," he said. 

"What kind of result would we expect from that? We'd expect that if you have COVID symptoms, you're not going to reveal them."

According to the union, the situation in the jail may be exacerbated by the movements of staff between different sectors. 

"The big difference from the health-care sector is that guards move around the whole building in order to help in other sectors when there are events, uprisings and tension," said Mathieu Lavoie, the president of Quebec's jail guards' union.

The union says guards should be prioritized in the vaccine rollout, and is waiting to hear from the Quebec government.

In an emailed statement, Quebec's Health Ministry said vaccinations in detention centres are part of their rollout planning. It said more details, including information regarding corrections officers, will be provided when the broader campaign begins.

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio

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