BC Corrections says it’s amending its protocols to meet with recent federal and provincial recommendations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre prisoner says more needs to be done.
“This is a dynamic situation and, as always, the safety and security of everyone in B.C.’s correctional centres and community corrections officers, and the broader community, is our paramount concern,” BC Corrections said in a statement responding to a query from KTW.
Provincial jails, like Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, are now closed to visitors and volunteers due to the pandemic. Inmates can still meet with lawyers, who are being encouraged to conduct meetings by phone.
KRCC prisoner Barry Smith told KTW he is concerned about conditions in the maximum-security prison. He said correctional officers are not wearing masks and have not changed their practices in recent weeks, as fears about COVID-19 have escalated.
According to Smith, the way KRCC inmates are housed could make the jail a bad place to be if the virus begins circulating inside.
“We’re crammed in here like sardines,” he said. “A 20-man unit with 40 guys.”
Smith said prisoners are concerned a correctional officer or a new inmate could bring the virus in from the outside. He said prisoners have been told new inmates are screened for symptoms and, assuming they are not showing any, put into a unit.
“They check you out for symptoms, but if you don’t have symptoms they just put you right in,” he said.
BC Corrections said anyone with symptoms is put into medical isolation. To date, no provincial inmates have been found to have COVID-19.
“In light of the most recent federal and provincial announcements by health officials, BC Corrections is in the process of updating other practices and procedures now,” the BC Corrections statement said. “The changes will be communicated to staff and to the public as appropriate.”