An additional two inmates have been granted unprecedented early release from provincial prisons in B.C. as a measure to help combat the potential spread of COVID-19 behind bars, bringing the total to 35.
BC Corrections data, provided in response to a query from KTW, show two prisoners — one at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre and the other at North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam — were granted freedom between May 4 and May 10 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In late March, BC Corrections announced some non-violent offenders would be released — following a screening procedure — in an effort to slow the potential spread of the novel coronavirus behind bars.
The 35 releases do not include dozens of offenders serving intermittent jail time — on weekends — who have been told to stay home.
Between May 4 and May 10, 142 inmates were admitted to B.C.’s 10 provincial prisons, including three at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
Two people involved in B.C.’s provincial corrections system have tested positive for COVID-19 — an inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver and an employee at North Fraser Pretrial Centre.
The Okanagan Correctional Centre prisoner has since recovered and the staffer at North Fraser remains off work.
An outbreak at Mission Institution, a federal penitentiary in the Fraser Valley, has claimed the life of one prisoner and infected more than 130 inmates and staff.
Provincial prisoners are inmates either awaiting trial or serving a sentence of less than two years in custody.
Federal penitentiary populations are made up of prisoners serving sentences of two years or longer.
BC Corrections has the authority to grant early release to provincial prisoners serving sentences, not those awaiting trial.
As of May 10, there were 1,510 inmates serving time in provincial prisons in B.C. — down more than 100 in the last three weeks and a drop of more than 25 per cent from mid-March, when there were nearly 2,200 provincial prisoners behind bars.