An outbreak at the Brockville jail has forced the temporary closure of the aging downtown facility with all inmates being transferred to Lindsay for testing and a mandatory 14-day quarantine, while new admissions are being redirected to Ottawa.
Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt says he has a number of clients at the Brockville jail who are “fearful for their safety” while incarcerated in overcrowded conditions and facing the prospect of a new, highly-transmissible COVID-19 variant.
There has been no indication thus far that the Omicron variant is involved in the Brockville jail outbreak, and ministry officials did not comment when asked how many cases had been confirmed among staff or inmates as of Tuesday.
“COVID certainly hasn’t improved anything about the conditions of our jails, which were described as inhumane, dirty and unsanitary even before the pandemic. And COVID doesn’t stop at the walls of the jail or the bars of the cell, so they’re petrified of getting sick,” Spratt said Tuesday.
Transferring prisoners is “an arduous process” involving a period of quarantine “that is very punitive and isolating,” Spratt said. “It cuts people off from their families, their lawyers, their visits, from programming, and it can present other difficulties for the disproportionately poor and marginalized.”
One of Spratt’s clients was released Monday and was set to enter a residential treatment program.
“He was going to brought to the court today to have that release put into effect, and instead we were informed by the court late (Monday) night that they don’t know if they’ll be able to get him to the court. It looks now that he’s going be in Lindsay, and his family is going to have to take extra steps to retrieve him, if that’s even possible.”
Read Aedan Helmer’s full article: Ottawa Citizen