April 9, 2020
Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg, MB — The Manitoba NDP is urging the province to take clear steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba’s correctional facilities and keep those who live and work within the justice system safe.
“Correctional facilities are high risk for exposure to this virus, not only because of overcrowding but also because of the turnover of staff, police officers, and health care providers who frequent these buildings,” said NDP Justice Critic Nahanni Fontaine. “The province can help to reduce this risk for everyone by taking steps to reduce overcrowding, provide personal protective equipment and provide training based on public health recommendations.”
Fontaine noted that both the Canadian Bar Association and the John Howard Society have raised concerns about inadequate levels of health care in federal institutions. Both organizations have recommended reducing the population in Canada’s correctional facilities in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Across Canada, health care workers have urged their governments to consider releasing those who are low risk in the interest of public health. Last week Public Safety Minister Bill Blair directed the federal prison service and the parole board to examine early releases.
The NDP is calling for the province to:
• Fast-track scheduled early releases, after residents have tested negative for COVID-19, and ensure their community reintegration plan accounts for social distancing;
• Ensure correctional officers and support staff have access to PPE and provide clear mandates of when that equipment must be worn; and
• Provide public health training for correctional officers when using PPE and when working closely with residents.
Fontaine also asked the Minister of Justice to prepare and make public a detailed action plan for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 among those living and working in the province’s correctional facilities.
The Official Opposition is committed to working with the province to support the fight against COVID-19