A handful of inmates at two local prisons have been released early to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Five inmates at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women and two inmates from the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, are among 95 inmates being released across the province.
Many of them, though, had intermittent sentences, said Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, the union that represents employees who work at both local facilities.
These are people who were sentenced, explained Smith, and as part of their sentencing had to go to jail only on the weekend, for example.
“So what they’ve said is they no longer have to report to the jail,” said Smith.
“And, that’s to mitigate any potential bringing in of the COVID into the jail system,” she said.
Other inmates that were released may have had sentences of less than 30 days, Smith added.
As of April 12, 35 inmates at the Mission Medium Institution have tested positive for COVID-19, the highest number of any federal prison in the country.
The BCGEU has not taken a position on the releases.
“We will work with the branch on anything that protects the well being and safety of our jail staff, as well as community safety as long as it does not contradict the provincial health officer’s orders,” said Smith, adding that in addition to corrections officers, the union, that represents tens of thousands of members who have been deemed essential workers, can also represent food service staff, administrative support staff and other support staff that work in jails like social workers and chaplans.
B.C. Corrections began working on strategies to mitigate infection the first couple of weeks of March including restricting visitation and restricting trades people coming in and out of the jail.