B.C.’s provincial prisons have decreased their inmate population by 25 per cent since mid-March, but only 20 prisoners have been given early release due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to numbers provided by BC Corrections in response to a query from KTW, three of those prisoners granted unprecedented early release because of the novel coronavirus were serving time at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
The BC Corrections data states provincial prisons held 2,184 inmates on March 15. As of April 12, the most recent date for which statistics were available, that number is 1,641.
The vast majority of prisoners leaving prisons are doing so at the end of their sentence or on bail. Between April 6 and April 12, 224 inmates left provincial prisons either at the end of a sentence or on bail. Over the same six-day period, only 102 new inmates were admitted to B.C.’s 10 provincial prisons — including just five at KRCC.
With most courts closed or operating at reduced levels, fewer offenders are being sent to jail.
One provincial prisoner — an inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver — has tested positive for COVID-19, but concerns among those who occupy and work in B.C.’s jails remains high.
In a statement provided to KTW by BC Corrections, the agency said it treats anyone with symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease as though they were a presumptive case.
Meanwhile, the first death related to COVID-19 among federally sentenced inmates was recorded in Abbotsford.
On Wednesday, an inmate from Mission Institution died at Abbotsford Regional Hospital as an apparent result of complications related to COVID-19.
The Correctional Service Canada has notified the BC Coroners Office, which will review the circumstances of the death.
At Mission Institution, a federal penitentiary in the Fraser Valley, a COVID-19 outbreak had grown to 48 confirmed infections as of Wednesday — six guards and 42 inmates, including seven hospitalizations.