Mothers return to Regina Correctional Centre, dance in support of inmates

A group of mothers danced in front of the Regina Correctional Centre yesterday afternoon as a way to show support for their loved ones inside of the facility.

Second time in a week an event has been held outside the jail

Loved ones and supporters of inmates brought signs to show support for those inside the jail. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

A group of mothers danced in front of the Regina Correctional Centre yesterday afternoon as a way to show support for their loved ones inside of the facility.

This is the second time in a week a group of mothers have shown support through dancing for inmates, the first time being on Tuesday when they protested for their family members to receive better living conditions inside the jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Julie Paul organized the event. She said her son, River Peters, is one of the inmates in the Regina Correctional Centre who had COVID-19.

She said she didn't find out about his condition until he called her after about a week.

"I was getting very worried, I put money on his account to call me himself so I just came straight here and didn't get any information," Paul said. "[The jail] had said they would've called me if he had COVID but no one called me.

"He called me the next day and said he has been on lockdown for five days."

She said her son is on day 10 of his quarantine and his health has improved.

Julie Paul, pictured, says her son is recovering from COVID-19. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Paul said while she is thankful the correctional staff provided the inmates with more resources like extra food, she was protesting because she wishes the staff would give inmates more support than they are currently receiving. She said she also wants to see more support for those who test positive for the virus.

"They should actually allow them to call us immediately, not wait like a whole week," Paul said. "I just pray that they would actually have better protocol in there."

She said she believes the first protest that was done on Tuesday has helped improve living conditions inside of the jail.

Paul said she made a lot of the powwow regalia for Saturday's event herself. The styles of regalia and dancers included traditional, fancy and jingle.

"I think a mother's love is really powerful and will make the world pay attention," She said. "Everyone mostly says that 'they're in there for a reason', you know, 'they put themselves in there' but they're still human.

"They deserve to be cared for through a pandemic as well."

Dancing for thanks

Stella Cote's son is also an inmate at the correctional facility. She said she was dancing as a way to say thanks to the correctional staff for providing inmates with better living conditions, including time to go outside instead of being locked up in their cells for most of the day.

"I'm actually happy we did the protest last week because things have been changing ever since," Cote said. "We're going to fight, no matter what, we're still here, they're not alone."

Stella Cote (pictured) says she wants to see more programming to inmates in the jail. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Cote said the next thing she hopes for the facility is for it to provide more programming to the inmates.

"That way when they do get released they'll have life skills," She said. "We don't want them [to be] out and have nothing, and just put them out in the city with them not knowing how to cope."

She said another concern she has is the way the facility has dealt with the pandemic, she said it took away important things for the inmates such as First Nations Elders and access to ceremonies.

"Their mental health needs to be taken care of as well."

Vaccine rollout for jails

Another issue that has come up due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the logistics of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to inmates. While federal prisons started receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, it is still uncertain when jails will get the vaccine.

Shawn Fraser, CEO of the John Howard Society, said jails and prisons should be prioritized for the vaccine.

"In the Canadian context, when you go to prison you give something up, you give up your freedom but you don't give up everything," Fraser said. "You don't give up the right to vote, you don't give up the right to health care."

Fraser said much like breaking an arm or having a heart attack, prisoners must be treated for illnesses — and this includes receiving the COVID-19 vaccine if they are seniors or have an underlying health condition.

"In our eyes [inmates] should be treated at the same time they would be on the outside," Fraser said.

He said he has heard from inmates and family members that there has been an increase of concerns inside of correctional facilities in the province.

"Prison isn't a great place to be at the best of times, but during COVID there really has been a lot of chaos in the past couple months and I don't think it's really that surprising for people that are involved in this conversation."

CBC News contacted the Regina Correctional Centre for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

With files from Karolina Rozwadowski