1 low-risk offender at South West Detention Centre granted early release due to pandemic
The jail is trying to proactively reduce the inmate population during the pandemic
Twenty low-risk offenders that were close to the end of their sentences have been released from Ontario correctional facilities, which includes one person from the South West Detention Centre. The office of the Solicitor General said its doing this to keep the jail population down during the pandemic.
They announced on March 20, that they would be using longer-term temporary absences to allow the early release of low-risk offenders who were near the end of their sentence.
According to the ministry, the inmates would have had 30 days or less left on their jail term.
"To ensure public safety, inmates are carefully assessed to ensure they are a low-risk to re-offend. Those inmates who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as violent crimes or crimes involving guns, are not considered for early release," according to the statement.
It said unlike the standard process, inmates are not required to apply for the release, but will be notified if they qualify, then they must agree to the terms and conditions of their release before leaving the South West Detention Centre.
"A centralized team at the ministry continues to review early release temporary absences," according to the statement.
As well, those who are completing their sentence by returning to the South West Detention Centre on the weekends have also received temporary absence passes.
The office of the Solicitor General confirms as of April 15 there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the South West Detention Centre.
The jail has made operation changes to prevent spread of the virus, like proactively reducing the inmate population, as well as restricting personal visitors and substantially reducing inmate in-person court appearances.
There is a pandemic plan specifically for the jail. If there is an outbreak officials will take immediate precautionary containment measures. They will notify the local Medical Officer of Health and provincial health professionals.
Currently staff is required to self-assess prior to entering the jail and are being asked to monitor their own health and report any changes to management. According to the statement, staff have access to personal protective equipment as required.
Anyone being admitted into provincial facilities are subject to being screened for respiratory illness.
The jail is also being inspected and thoroughly cleaned as required. It has also brought in third-party cleaning services to perform additional deep cleaning Inmates have been educated on the spread of the virus and have been given cleaning products to keep their living areas clean.
- A previous version of this story said 19 inmates had been granted early release at the South West Detention Centre. Since publishing the ministry has clarified that in fact 20 inmates in total from all of the Ontario institutions including the South West Detention Centre have been granted early release.Apr 16, 2020 11:30 AM ET