Ebene News – CA – Saskatoon and Pine Grove prisons are overloaded with inmates, fueling concerns over the spread of COVID-19

On Friday, Saskatoon Correctional Center and Pine Grove Correctional Center had overloaded inmate populations

Two of Saskatchewan’s provincial prisons have now exceeded the capacity of their inmate populations and two others have exceeded 80% of their capacity, new figures from the Corrections ministry show

As of April 30, the Saskatoon Correctional Center, with a capacity of 507 people, held 532 inmates in Pine Grove, the province’s only prison for women, held 186 inmates, but could hold 166

Regina Correctional Center – the site of an active COVID-19 outbreak – has a capacity of 782 people and has held 646 inmates Prince Albert Prison, with a capacity of 496 people, held 417 inmates

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John Howard Society of Saskatchewan CEO Shawn Fraser said COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons directly reflected a situation of crowded community living where people were not prioritized for vaccination

“We’ve heard from prisoners and guards who have very sick people they know It’s a tough situation and I think ultimately it’s a combination of things, but… to the heart of the issue is that the prisons have been excluded from the deployment of the priority to community life with the vaccine and also that we have overcrowded conditions, ”he said.

Inmates across the province are vaccinated by age group, as in the outside community Friday 215 had been vaccinated The majority of vaccinations – 119 – were given at the Saskatoon Jail; only 22 had been administered at Regina Prison

As of Monday, 103 active cases affected Saskatchewan correctional facilities: 69 cases among inmates and 34 among staff With the exception of one active case among inmates and one case among prison staff Prince Albert, active cases limited to Regina jail

Opposition justice spokesperson Nicole Sarauer said she had heard about the double bunking of people with COVID-19 at Regina prison and pressure on staffing staff The overcapacity situation is “incredibly alarming”, she said

“Adding more inmates to the prison right now is just adding more fuel to the fire”

The ministry should work with the prosecution to ensure remand inmates who can be released are released and sentenced inmates released early when possible, Sarauer said

When prisons are overcrowded, emergency spaces such as classrooms are used to house inmates, Corrections Minister Christine Tell said

Having enough places for medical isolation is “a priority,” she added, noting that funds for the expansion of remand at Saskatoon jail were in the 2021-2022 budget She said the plan was to include “flexible space” in her design, so that inmates could be moved from Regina or Prince Albert to Saskatoon when needed.

Tell said the ministry had started “beefing up” its staff months before the pandemic, to more quickly review requests for reinstatement leave for sentenced inmates who meet the criteria

She reaffirmed that remand inmates are placed in the custody of corrections through the justice system and that corrections “will not interfere with the course of justice”

Legal proceedings have been affected by precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as adjournments of trial cases

Lisa Watson, a criminal lawyer and co-chair of the Saskatoon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said last week that trial dates were set for November and she believes wait times for trials and preliminary inquiries are longer and longer due to delays

Julia Quigley, a legal aid lawyer who is president of CUPE Local 1949, which represents legal aid lawyers, said the system prioritizes cases involving people on remand Those on bail are waiting longer and court delays have a ‘cascading effect’, she said

“This is always linked to the issue of pre-trial detention, as people are sitting under conditions, often very strict, for a longer period of time. They are more likely to discover offenses or new substantive offenses and that a person will eventually be remanded in custody at that time”

Justice Department spokeswoman Margherita Vittorelli wrote in an email that the prosecution has taken action, including working with courts and defense lawyers to deal with cases as far as possible, identify issues that should be resolved pre-trial and identify cases to prioritize after the courts have worked to resolve cases be fully operational

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Ebene News – CA – Saskatoon and Pine Grove prisons are overloading their inmates, fueling concerns about the spread of COVID-19

Source: https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/significant-delays-of-criminal-court-cases-concerning-people-on-bail-at-risk-of-ending-up-on-remand