KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Over 100 inmates and correctional officers working at Canadian federal institutions have now tested positive for COVID-19. It is impossible to prevent widespread infection in a prison once the virus takes hold.
Nonetheless, the federal government so far has not begun the release of even a portion of the federal prison population.
On Tuesday April 14 please use Twitter to further pressure the government to do the right thing without further delay. Hashtags #WhereIsBlair #CleanOutPrisons #ReleaseSavesLives
We want to peak our tweeting at 10am-11am ET (11-12 Atlantic) leading up to Trudeau’s 11am press conference.
Also on Tuesday please join other Canadians in calling upon Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to release as many prisoners as possible from federal custody. See below for a suggested email.
I am writing to you to demand the immediate release of as many prisoners as possible from federal custody.
Every public health official and expert agrees that prisons are “epicenters of disease” during a pandemic. It is impossible for incarcerated people to maintain social distance or to ensure adequate hygiene. The testimony from incarcerated people about the conditions in prisons where there is spread during this pandemic are deeply concerning both from a public health and human rights perspective. In addition, the effect on mental health from holding people in prison without mental health resources, visits, or programming is also a major health concern.
The health of our communities is only as secure as that of the worst-treated and most vulnerable among us. We have already heard of towns where prisons are located raising the issue of infections spread from prison staff into the community. We cannot fight this pandemic effectively while continuing to incarcerate tens of thousands of people.
You must take immediate action to stop the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. We urge you to release as many prisoners as possible, including but not limited to those in low security institutions, those approaching the end of their sentences, elderly prisoners and those at high risk of infection due to chronic health conditions, and people eligible for community release.
Delaying release places us all in danger. The federal government must immediately make resources available for housing, medication, and other needs to ensure all those released are adequately supported in the community. It is past time to follow the lead not only of other provincial governments, but of many other countries around the world. Doctors, lawyers, public health experts, advocates, human rights experts, and prisoners themselves have all called for release as the most effective tool in fighting this pandemic in prisons. You must take action.