Jail population returns to pre-pandemic level
Vaccine may be coming to jails in 'next couple of weeks'
The number of people behind bars on P.E.I. has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but restrictions remain in place inside corrections facilities with the possibility of vaccinations for COVID-19 taking place in provincial jails in the near future.
The return to normal began last year, according to newly released figures from Statistics Canada.
In September, 115 adults were in custody in P.E.I., according to Statistics Canada. The numbers hit a low of 80 last April, in the initial weeks of the sweeping health restrictions that rolled out across Canada and much of the world, in response to the pandemic. The province's jail population in February of last year, before COVID-19 precautions began, was 114.
Vaccines may be administered in jails coming weeks, according to the P.E.I. justice officials, citing "significant risk of transmission."
"Like other congregate living environments ... it is the department's understanding that Public Health will be providing vaccines to correctional facilities in the next couple of weeks as part of their larger vaccine rollout," according to a written statement from the Department of Justice.
Newly arrived inmates continue to be placed in self-isolation upon arrival, according to the P.E.I. Department of Justice. They are tested for COVID-19 on the first and on the seventh day of self-isolation, and enter the general jail population after seven days if tests are negative and no symptoms are present.
The number of people in custody fluctuates on a daily basis, but P.E.I. continues to be experiencing "high but manageable numbers," according to the justice department. On Monday, 93 people were in custody.
Weekends in jail, which allow offenders to keep their weekday jobs or provide child care, remain unavailable as a sentencing option.
Some female offenders moved to youth facility
To create more space, some female offenders have been moved to the province's facility for young offenders.
Last month, the province began to house some women in the Youth Centre in Summerside, rather than the Provincial Correctional Centre in Charlottetown.
One of the Youth Centre's two eight-bed units is now used to house female adults "as a temporary measure to relieve capacity pressure," according to the province. As of March 10, there were four women in the youth facility.
The women are "low risk female offenders," according to the province, with "zero contact" between young offenders and adult females housed in the facility.
At the Island's main jail in Charlottetown, a new 34-bed female wing remains on schedule for completion in the summer of 2022.
Advocates for offenders — as well as the union representing corrections officers — are taking the changes in stride.
Staff at the John Howard Society say they have not been permitted inside provincial jails at times over the past year, due to COVID-19 precautions, but expect a return to greater access as restrictions ease.
The union that represents corrections officers says it has heard no concerns from members.
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