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Coronavirus: 25 inmates, 3 staff infected as COVID-19 outbreak in B.C. prison worsens

B.C.'s medium-security Mission Institution is in the grips of the country's worst prison outbreak of COVID-19.
B.C.'s medium-security Mission Institution is in the grips of the country's worst prison outbreak of COVID-19. Global News

Twenty-five inmates and three correctional officers have now tested positive for COVID-19 at a B.C. prison.

The medium-security Mission Institution is the epicentre of the country’s worst prison outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The prison has been locked down, and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) says it is still waiting on the results from tests of 18 other inmates.

READ MORE: B.C. federal prison on lockdown after 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Vancouver criminal lawyer Adrienne Smith is concerned the scale of the outbreak may actually be under-reported, saying that given the incubation time for the virus, the known cases could actually reflect the situation two weeks ago.

COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada
COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada

Smith says the CSC should have been better prepared for the possibility of an outbreak.

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“This is something that we could have very much predicted,” Smith said.

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“Prisons are very much like care homes in that they are places where folks are packed in closely together and workers come and go and can take COVID into the facilities and out.”

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which confirmed the number of infected guards, was not available to comment.

Last weekend, the union said there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff interacting with infected inmates, but that “supplies are running low.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: inmates at Chicago prison hang ‘we’re dying’ signs after 276 test positive for COVID-19

The CSC said protocols are in place to respond to an outbreak and dedicated health-care resources are capable of handling COVID-19.

READ MORE: B.C. federal prison has highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada

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The agency also opened the door to the possible early release of some inmates.

“We are working closely with the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to examine all options with respect to the safe release of offenders into the community,” said the CSC in a statement.

“We are currently conducting an analysis of the offender population to be in a position to make evidence-based recommendations.”