B.C. prison officials have started releasing low-risk prisoners in an effort to reduce the number of people behind bars as concern over the COVID-19 pandemic remains high.
“As risk assessments are completed for non-violent, sentenced individuals, they are being released as appropriate,” BC Corrections said in a statement in response to a query from KTW.
BC Corrections operates 10 provincial prisons, including maximum-security Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
The agency said it has not recorded any confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease at any of its facilities.
The unprecedented early releases are only for prisoners serving sentences, not those in custody awaiting trial. Risk assessments include a review of the prisoner’s criminal record and a look at their community supports on the outside, BC Corrections said.
In addition, the agency said it has adequate cleaning supplies in its prisons and requires mandatory hand-washing for staff and contractors and for inmates upon processing.
Any prisoner showing COVID-19 symptoms upon processing or while in custody is isolated for 14 days, BC Corrections said in a separate fact sheer released to media.
“Correctional centres have space to support physical distancing,” the release said. “BC Corrections has been working to reimagine programming to find ways to continue delivering it to small groups in ways that align with the public health guidelines BC Corrections has been given.”
Last week, BC Corrections officials confirmed they were telling “many” intermittent prisoners — individuals who serve jail time on the weekend — to stay home.
The time behind bars will not be made up following the pandemic.