By Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As COVID-19 cases continue in federal prisons across Ontario, a Peterborough area woman whose husband is serving time in the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst is concerned about the facility’s ongoing lack of safety measures as the pandemic continues.
The woman, whose name is not being published to protect her husband while he’s incarcerated, said that while the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is worried about private family visits putting inmates and staff at risk, that they should be more concerned about the officers infecting inmates.
“I find it funny that the union is concerned about the families who travel from other areas, yet the guards are allowed to go home, shop and go where they want when they want, and there is no concern around them,” she said.
Last month, when the woman went for her first visit in eight months, she said she witnessed officers who weren’t wearing masks.
The next morning, she and her husband were watching a movie when the officers knocked on the door, wanting to search the room.
“So, we had to go into the visitation area and they didn’t even ask us to put a mask on or anything. Nobody was there, mind you, just the employees, but still,” she said.
Corrections Canada officials did not respond to requests for comment from The Examiner.
On Dec. 17, Correctional Service Canada suspended all in-person visits at the Ontario federal prisons, including Warkworth Institution, after 89 inmates at Joyceville Institution, six at Collins Bay Institution, three at Warkworth and one at Beaver Creek tested positive for the virus.
With Christmas and New Year’s holidays coming up, the woman said she’s concerned that the correctional officers are going to gather with family, creating even more of a risk for inmates to contract the virus.
“The guards should be taking more precautions. They walk around with no masks on all the time,” she said. “And I don’t see the guards using hand sanitizer either. Even my husband said the same thing. They barely use it.”
If the union is concerned about private family visits, the woman said they should ask family members wanting to visit to get tested prior to their visit.
“I told CSC (Correctional Service Canada) at the beginning of the pandemic, tell us to get a test. I’m quite willing to get a test. As long as I’m negative, allow me to come in,” she said.
Families who don’t want to get a test shouldn’t be allowed in, she added.Like at Warkworth, the COVID-19 case at Beaver Creek had been exposed while at Joyceville.
“Four people transferred from Joyceville, but only one was positive,” she said. “The guy’s apparently isolated right now.”
Correctional Service Canada announced in December an expansion of its testing of employees and inmates at the Ontario prisons and continues with measures to prevent the spread of the virus including wearing masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, active health screening of anyone entering an institution and increased cleaning and disinfecting.
The agency has built its own contact tracing capacity by training more than 250 staff to conduct contact tracing. The contact tracing begins at the onset of symptoms rather than waiting for a positive test result, according to the Correctional Service Canada.The prisons also have their own nurses and physicians monitoring the health of inmates.
Correctional Service Canada is posting updates on federal prison case numbers at csc-scc.gc.ca/001/006/001006-1014-en.shtml