Coronavirus: 23 inmates, 3 staff infected as COVID-19 outbreak in B.C. prison worsens

Twenty-three inmates and three correctional officers have now tested positive for COVID-19 at a B.C. prison.

The medium-security Mission Institution is the epicentre of the country’s worst prison outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The prison has been locked down, and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) says it is still waiting on the results from tests of 18 other inmates.

READ MORE: B.C. federal prison on lockdown after 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Vancouver criminal lawyer Adrienne Smith is concerned the scale of the outbreak may actually be under-reported, saying that given the incubation time for the virus, the known cases could actually reflect the situation two weeks ago.

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Smith says the CSC should have been better prepared for the possibility of an outbreak.

“This is something that we could have very much predicted,” Smith said.

“Prisons are very much like care homes in that they are places where folks are packed in closely together and workers come and go and can take COVID into the facilities and out.”

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which confirmed the number of infected guards, was not available to comment.

Last weekend, the union said there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff interacting with infected inmates, but that “supplies are running low.”

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The CSC said protocols are in place to respond to an outbreak and dedicated health-care resources are capable of handling COVID-19.

READ MORE: B.C. federal prison has highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada

The agency also opened the door to the possible early release of some inmates.

“We are working closely with the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to examine all options with respect to the safe release of offenders into the community,” said the CSC in a statement.

“We are currently conducting an analysis of the offender population to be in a position to make evidence-based recommendations.”

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