Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to grant temporary release to some inmates amid COVID-19 pandemic

Nova Scotia is releasing 41 people serving intermittent sentences in provincial jails in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

41 people serving intermittent sentences will be released until further notice

Courts can order intermittent sentences to anyone serving 90 days or less in provincial jails. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia is granting temporary release to some inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic to mitigate the virus's spread within jails.

The province announced Wednesday it would grant temporary absences, with no fixed end date, to 41 people serving intermittent sentences.

These sentences are typically served only on weekdays, with weekends in the community, or vice versa.

Individuals are intermittently released to live at home, work in the community and fulfil family obligations.

Courts can order intermittent sentences to anyone serving 90 days or less in provincial jails.

The justice system in Ontario announced last week it would grant temporary absence to its intermittent inmates during the pandemic.

Advocates in Nova Scotia have been calling for a slew of changes to the correctional system in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, including temporary release of some inmates.

Sheila Wildeman, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and vice-chair of the East Coast Prison Justice Society, said she was pleased intermittent sentences would be suspended, but wanted to see the government go further.

"It's a start," Wildeman said in a phone interview Wednesday.

"I would say it's the simplest of the moves that continue to be critically important."

East Coast Prison Justice Society and four other advocacy groups sent a letter to the province outlining their requests earlier this week.

In addition to releasing intermittent inmates, the advocates asked for the temporary release of inmates at heightened risk for complications from COVID-19 and primary support parents.

Wildeman said she hoped to see those individuals released, with the appropriate support from the Department of Community Services.

The province already cut off all visits to jails to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As of Wednesday, there are three confirmed and nine presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.