Saskatoon

Jail COVID numbers continue to rise with inmates living in confined quarters

COVID cases at the Saskatoon jail continue to rise as a prisoner advocate warns the setting is ideal for transmission.

John Howard Society says it's heading to point where 'everybody gets sick'

As of Monday morning, there were 23 staff and 106 inmates at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre confirmed to have the virus. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

The number of staff and inmates testing positive for COVID-19 at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre continued to rise over the weekend.

As of Monday morning, there were 23 staff and 106 inmates confirmed to have the virus. This compares with slightly fewer than 100 staff and inmates on Friday.

The head of a prisoner advocacy group says the situation is dire and that the province must step in to reduce the number of people at the jail.

"I think for a lot of people, they feel that being in there is actually a sentence to get sick now that things are so bad at Saskatoon Correctional and, quite frankly, are set up to be so bad at other institutions as well," said Shawn Fraser with the John Howard Society.

COVID has also surfaced at jails and youth residences in Regina and Prince Albert. While nowhere near as prevalent as in Saskatoon, Fraser says the time to act is now.

"If we keep our numbers, we have about 1,800 in prison [across the province], I wouldn't be surprised if everyone gets sick," he said.

In the spring, there was a push to get non-violent inmates on remand back into the community. Fraser wants the government to again remove people who have been charged with a non-violent offence — but not convicted.

Fraser said that John Howard supports a call from Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) for staff to be housed off-site at hotels between shifts so the workers are not bringing the virus home.

The province has so far said no to this proposal.

About the Author

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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