Nova Scotia

Some inmates being released from Nova Scotia jails in attempt to slow COVID-19 spread

Two cases of COVID-19 have been detected within a Halifax-area jail. Meanwhile, some inmates are being released in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

2 cases have been detected at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth

Two cases of COVID-19 have been detected at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, also known as the Burnside jail. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

With two cases already detected within a Nova Scotia jail, some inmates are being released in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The strategy began last year with the first wave of COVID-19.

Eventually, about 50 inmates were released early or temporarily to live in the community. Others, in jail on remand, were released on bail.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said 19 people serving sentences have been released since April when the third wave arrived in Nova Scotia. Those released on bail are not tallied by the province, the spokesperson said, as those cases relate to decisions made by the courts.

Asked by reporters Thursday how many inmates the province intends to release, Justice Minister Randy Delorey said there is no "quota" system at play.

Randy Delorey is Nova Scotia's justice minister and attorney general. (Robert Short/CBC)

"It really is just evaluating on a case-by-case basis, eligible inmates that may be considered for that temporary absence or an early release," said Delorey.

However, Ashley Avery, executive director of Coverdale Courtwork Society — a non-profit group that supports women and girls involved in the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia — told CBC she's been advised there's a target of depopulating jails by between 25 and 35 per cent. 

According to the Department of Justice, there were just over 350 inmates in provincial jails on Friday.

Cases detected at Burnside jail

The two known cases of COVID-19 are at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, also known as the Burnside jail. One case is a staff member and one a recent admission.

At Friday's COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said the cases did not amount to an outbreak.

"In both cases, Public Health is engaged and all the appropriate measures are being undertaken." said Justice Department spokesperson Heather Fairbairn.

Fairbairn said everyone remanded or sentenced into custody is tested and kept in isolation until approved by the health authority for transfer to another area.

Avery said her organization and the Elizabeth Fry Society have been working with women released from the Burnside jail for more than a week to ensure they have access to housing and other services that may be required as conditions of their release.

As of Wednesday, she said four women released from the jail had been placed in hotels and six women had been placed in rooms in supportive housing settings — Coverdale's Caitlan's Place and Elizabeth Fry's Holly House.   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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