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BC jails trying to keep cases at a minimum during pandemic’s second wave

BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) president Stephanie Smith says provincial jails are holding their own during the second wave of the pandemic.

In an interview with MyPGNow, she added BC correctional facilities have seen fewer infections than their Federal counterparts, which is mainly due to measures like reducing inmate population.

Smith stated while a few outbreaks have been declared in the Lower Mainland, Prince George is holding up quite well.

“We haven’t had an outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic and we work very hard with the corrections branch to do everything we possibly can to keep inmates and staff safe.”

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“Some of what we are doing seems to be working and we haven’t seen the kinds of cases that are in Federal jails in our provincial jails.”

As for what measures are working in BC’s favour, Smith mentioned a number of things are falling into place.

“We are trying to reduce the inmate population by looking at those who are in pre-trial situations who perhaps don’t have to be physically in the facility. We’ve asked for adequate personal protection for our members and isolating when a positive case is identified as quickly as possible.”

“We have had cases in the Lower Mainland where members who have exercised their right under Workers Compensation legislation to refuse unsafe work. Corrections officers are very good at risk assessment so if they say the work is too risky that’s a big klaxon bell for us.”

However, the BCGEU continues to ask for plexiglass to be installed at officers’ desks within living units.

Last April, four inmates from the PG Correctional Centre were granted an early release in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

In addition, Smith and the BCGEU would like to see correctional facilities classified in the same category as long-term care homes and that vaccinations should be available to everyone.

“We would say that a jail is a congregate living environment as well. One of the things we have been calling for as well as ensuring that vaccinations that are rolled out are given not just to the residents or in this case, in jail, the inmates but also the workers who support them.”

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