Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Some provinces yet to say when jail inmates to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Experts say that inmates are in a vulnerable situation when it comes to the pandemic

A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something half of jurisdictions have yet to do.

The Correctional Service of Canada has started vaccinations for federal prisoners who are older or considered “medically vulnerable.” But, as of last week, provinces had yet to start giving shots to inmates awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences in provincial jails.

“Prisoners are disproportionately impacted by health conditions that would make them very susceptible to serious illness and death as a result of COVID,” said Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Because of a limited vaccine supply, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends people in correctional centres get inoculated behind those in long-term care homes, seniors 70 and older, critical health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities.

British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia said that, as of last week, prisoners and staff are scheduled for vaccination in the second round of inoculations, with estimated start dates between next month and June.

Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec didn’t provide a timeline for when inmates will receive their shots. Newfoundland and Labrador said its inmates will be part of the second phase of its vaccine distribution, but didn’t specify dates.

Saskatchewan said the ranking of vulnerable groups is still to be determined.

The Northwest Territories and Yukon planned to start giving shots this week. Nunavut didn’t respond to inquiries.

Deshman was part of a research project that tracked COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons. It found that since Dec. 1, there have been at least 1,962 infections among staff and inmates — more than all of the cases reported from last March until November.

“We should have targets for immunizing key vulnerable populations, regardless of who they are,” she said.

“If those targets need to be adjusted, if they cannot be met, that needs to be publicly communicated and explained.”

She noted some politicians, including federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have pushed back against early vaccinations for federal inmates.

Justin Piche, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said there are far fewer older prisoners in provincial jails than in federal prisons, where one out of five inmates is 50 and older.

He said rhetoric from leaders that pits one group against another isn’t helpful.

“Prisons are among the congregate settings that are seeing significant transmission,” he said.

“You have prisoners who are getting COVID-19 at higher rates. You have prison staff that are going in and out of there on a day-to-day basis, going back to their families, going back to their communities.”

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers believes it’s wrong that Ottawa didn’t vaccinate correctional staff along with prisoners, and instead left it up to provinces to decide where staff fall in the vaccine line.

”It’s completely foolish,” said national president Jeff Wilkins.

“We have (Saskatchewan Penitentiary), for example, which has seen quite an extensive outbreak. Our members are getting burnt out.”

As of last week, Manitoba listed provincial and federal correctional health-care workers as eligible to be vaccinated.

Wilkins wants to see correctional officers inoculated along with long-term care staff.

“In some areas, we’ve seen the rates of the institution be much higher than the community.”

Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, questions why doses were sent to institutions in Atlantic Canada, which have no active COVID-19 cases, while inmates in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are at higher risk.

Latimer is also concerned about what she says is solitary confinement-like measures being used to contain the novel coronavirus.

“It’s a very, very harsh correctional environment right now,” she said.

“We’re probably going through the worst period in terms of general corrections, at least on the federal side, in the last 50 years.”

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusprisonvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Deane Gorsline, is a former Burns Lake resident who has been diagnosed with ALS. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
ALS Action Canada group ropes in political leaders

Hopes to get more support and ultimately better treatment options for Canadians

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Decker Lake Elementary School’s exposure incident was from Dec. 3, 2020 to Dec. 4, 2020. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
School attendance improves, as cases go down

Decker Lake Elementary school had the most recent COVID exposure incident in January

There has been an increase in workers staying at the 7 Mile Lodge near Burns Lake, from 49 workers post-holiday break to 93 workers by end of January. (Lakes District News file photo)
Coastal GasLink gets a nod to increase workforce from 963 to 2,787 people

One new COVID case in section 1 of the pipeline identified; no lodge affected

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read