Saskatchewan

'Scared for their life': family and supporters protest conditions outside Regina Correctional Centre

Julie Paul has a son, 26-year-old River Peters, who is in the centre and was diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly a week ago. She said the only time he could see a doctor was when he got a test. The only treatment he's received is a one-time dose of Tylenol. 

Regina Correctional Centre experiencing COVID-19 outbreak

Julie Paul's son has COVID-19. She is worried for both his physical and mental health. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Supporters and family members of people living in the Regina Correctional Centre protested outside the building today against poor living conditions amid a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Julie Paul has a son, 26-year-old River Peters, who is in the centre and was diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly a week ago. She said the only time he could see a doctor was when he got a test. The only treatment he's received is a one-time dose of Tylenol, according to Paul. 

"They are so very scared for their life because they're being left there without any help. And the people that have COVID ... they're not coming to see them or check on them and some of them can't really breathe very well," Paul told reporters Tuesday. 

"I've never seen my son like this in my life. It's very painful."

Paul said Peters has lost his sense of taste and smell. But there are others in the centre who are doing a lot worse. 

Currently, the Regina Correctional Centre has 62 known active cases of COVID-19 among inmates, with 18 known active staff infections. That's according to data from the Saskatchewan Government Employees' Union. 

Christine Tell, minister of corrections, policing and public safety, said Tuesday in a statement that the health of inmates is "top of mind" for her department. 

"That is why we have taken a number of steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in our facilities, which includes mandatory masking; testing upon admission and as directed by public health authorities, quarantining new admissions for 14 days; and establishing temporary structures to provide flexibility in managing the correctional population," the email statement said. 

The Saskatchewan NDP has called for Tell's resignation over the outbreak.

Some family members said that they were told by the inmates they knew that people with COVID-19 were not being kept away from those who did not have COVID-19. 

Stella Cote has a son in the correctional centre. She says the canteen has been closed and said people are being denied cultural supports like sweats and smudging.

"Ask yourself ... what happened to ethical standards for humans?" she said. 

"Mothers have children in there, children have fathers in there. Ask yourself what you would want done if it was your child, your brother or your father? I'm asking for more to be done. I'm asking that the inmates receive resources that they need, resources that are essential to life and health."

A supporter stands at the protest with a sign reading: Minister, tell the truth. How many COVID cases in the jails? (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Paul said she's hoping the jail will open the canteen again, that people living in the jail can be allowed more open communication with their families, and that they can get medical care. She also wants to see more of a possibility that people can be released, an idea Minister Christine Tell has opposed. 

Inmates in Saskatoon and Prince Albert facilities staged a hunger strike this week to protest how the province has handled COVID-19 behind bars, something Tell acknowledged in her statement Tuesday.

She called the action a "tray refusal."

"Our focus continues to be the health and safety of the inmates and staff, which includes nutrition. Staff will continue to work with advocates and inmates to resolve this situation," the statement said. 

Protestors held up signs Tuesday morning outside the Regina Correctional Centre. They are calling for a better COVID-19 plan and more livable conditions for inmates. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

About the Author

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter/Associate Producer

Emily Pasiuk is an associate producer and reporter for CBC Edmonton. She has filmed two documentaries, reported at CBC Saskatchewan, CTV Saskatoon and written for Global Regina. Tips? Ideas? Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

With files from Germain Wilson

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