Another three inmates have been granted unprecedented early release from B.C.’s provincial prisons as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues — bringing the total to 33.
Figures from BC Corrections, provided in response to a query from KTW, cover the period from April 27 to May 3. In that period, two of the released prisoners came from Nanaimo Correctional Centre and the third from Prince George Regional Correctional Centre.
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 33 releases do not include dozens of offenders serving intermittent jail time — on weekends — who have been told to stay home.
Between April 27 and May 3, 128 inmates were admitted to B.C.’s 10 provincial prisons, including four 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 in Port Coquitlam. The OCC prisoner has since recovered and the staffer 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 3, there were 1,529 inmates serving time in provincial prisons in B.C. — down more than 100 in the last two weeks and a drop of more than 25 per cent from mid-March, when there were nearly 2,200 provincial prisoners behind bars.