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“I really couldn’t breathe”: Former prisoner of COVID-19 in federal prison




A 24-year-old boy released in January after being infected with COVID-19 at Prince Albert’s Saskatchewan Prison (Saskatchewan Penn) described a recent outbreak at the facility as “unavoidable.”

Former prisoner Jessica Chastain said he was imprisoned on April 20 for parole and curfew violations. His warrant expired on July 24, last year, but was remanded in court for other matters and released on January 21, he said.

Hall said keeping prisoners longer than the original sentence also contributed to the crowded situation in prisons and encouraged the spread of the virus.

“I took the test three times first and went back to negative. From the fourth time on, I’ve been positive about it because they keep me in range and allow me to leave range. Because they didn’t. They just left me there and I finally got it, “Hall said.

“Diffusion was unavoidable due to the large number of people trapped in tight spaces.”

Hall said personal protective equipment (PPE) was not used properly and virus-positive prisoners were not quarantined. He said prisoners tested positive for the virus were “moving around” in the general public.

Mr Hall said prisoners should not have been transferred between facilities during the spread of the virus.

“It was only a matter of time, as they were still making transfers when there was a COVID. And that shouldn’t have happened. The way it was first brought to jail. Was the transfer of prisoners from Manitoba, “Hall said.

“It’s widespread because you’re there for 24 hours and the guy next to you is probably only 3-4 feet away from you, and the air only circulates the air that’s already in the prison. , It just spread in the air. ”

He was forced to use the same mask for a month, prisoners were not taught how to use face masks properly, and nurses moved from the area where COVID-19 prisoners were housed. He explained that he would not change the PPE.

“There are certain ways they are supposed to teach people how to get rid of their masks and all the materials you have for proper disposal. But they give it to everyone. I won’t tell you. I didn’t even know that until I got out. They didn’t force anyone to wear a mask or something, “Hall said.

“After using it a few times, I’m supposed to use a new mask. It’s only been used for a very long time. But they didn’t give me another mask, so I’ve been using it for a whole month. I had a mask during. ”

Public health has declared an outbreak in Saskatchewan. December 12th pen still listed as active by the Saskatchewan Department of Health. Federal agencies announced an outbreak in prison on December 15, followed by an outbreak. As of January 25, the CSC stated that there were no longer any known active cases of COVID-19 among prisoners of the institution, and the situation between prisoners and staff.

Kim Bourdain, Deputy Secretary of State for the Aboriginal People’s Assembly, pointed out that the number of indigenous peoples imprisoned in prisons was imbalanced and likened the situation to a prisoner’s “death sentence.”

He urged the CSC to release all prisoners detained for nonviolent crimes and give infected prisoners a separate residence than other prisoners.

“I also urge those in Canadian colonial federal prisons to have access to the program, contact with loved ones and volunteers, and the supplies they need to survive the crisis.” Said Bourdain.

“Neglect informs the indigenous people that our lives are not important and that the federal government remains unable to overcome its colonial heritage.”

The rate of indigenous imprisonment within state correctional facilities in Saskatchewan is approximately 76 percent. At the federal facility Saskatchewan Prison, that number is about 65 percent.

According to data available from the Orthodontic Investigator’s Office Annual Report (2018-2019), “Indigenous criminals have been overestimated by the number of suicide attempts and the entire number of such cases over the last decade. It accounts for 39% of the total. ”

The latest annual report of Canadian Orthodontic Investigators was submitted to Parliament on February 18. In his latest report, Canadian Orthodontic Investigator Ivan Zinger, CSC’s work environment and corporate culture issues have adversely affected prisoners.

Spokesman Mary Lizpower, Minister of Public Security Bill Blair, told Prince Albert Daily Herald in December that the federal government had implemented a number of protocols to contain the COVID-19 epidemic at the facility.

“There is no segment of society unaffected by COVID-19. Our government is focused on protecting and supporting all Canadians, including prisoners and orthodontic staff,” Power said. Says.

“We are aware of the unique vulnerabilities faced by correctional facilities during this public health crisis. In response to a case of COVID-19 in a federal agency, the Correctional Services Canada (CSC) All agencies have implemented extensive infection prevention and control measures at all security levels. ”

These measures include mandatory masks for prisoners and staff, physical distance measures, active health examinations of persons entering the facility, contact tracing, and enhanced and enhanced on-site cleaning and disinfection. It is included. She said rapid inspections are also used by both staff and prisoners.

Since the beginning of March, the total federal detention population has been reduced by more than 1,300 prisoners. People transferred to Saskatchewan Prison will be screened for COVID-19. Prisoners transferred to the facility were medically quarantined for 14 days after arrival, Power said.

“They are supported by medical and unit staff during the quarantine. They are housed in separate units while in quarantine. The CSC works closely with local public health professionals. , COVID-19 will guide you in responding to the pandemic. They are already strengthening infection control procedures to protect staff, criminals, and the community. ”

Power said inmates and staff were able to make additional personal protective equipment available as needed. According to Hall, prisoners began to lose hope as the virus spread around the prison and stayed out in search of a little fresh air during the day while it was blocked.

“They just keep the men in their cell. Even those who are already recovering are taking as much time from the cells as 30 minutes a day. It’s in the cell. It’s been 23 and a half hours, and the way they treat everyone is that they stopped doing wellness checks, “Hall said.

He explained the death of a friend due to the virus, which he said was rejected when he requested quarantine, and said he had to witness multiple suicide attempts by prisoners who were overwhelmed by the situation during the outbreak.

“There were some guys who committed suicide. When my friend hung his head, I had to yell at the guards because there was no guard coming to help him or anything. 15 minutes It took a while, but he was hanging so long, but he survived, barely.

“I was able to meet another friend. He was only about 8 cells below me. He hung his neck and the nurse had to resuscitate him and take him to the hospital. There wasn’t, “Hall said.

“I have one of my buddies, Charles Francis, who told them,” I’m really vulnerable and in my fifties. ” He was telling the nurse, “I don’t want to catch COVID.” “After all of us got infected with COVID and went to the hospital, he finally got infected with COVID. He was there for about a month. Then they came by one day and he died. He told us that he would still be here if they had handled it better. ”

Spokesperson Kelly Dae Dash said the CSC provides prisoners with their own medical care and is “a dedicated medical professional on-site, including nurses and doctors who closely monitor everyone in medical isolation.” I did.

“During this public health pandemic, the health and safety of our employees, criminals, and the general public remains a top priority,” said Dash.

Dash allows inmates to move to a minimum, and CSCs modify routines to ensure adequate physical distance and limit infection as much as possible, allowing infection within a variety of ranges. He said he had reduced his sex.

“Given the closed living environment, close contact with positive prisoners is medically isolated within their cells. During the isolation period, prisoners have access to medical and institutional staff.” Dash says.

“In addition, healthcare staff complete all-day health checks.”

The CSC said prisoners were self-isolated in their individual cells, but had access to daily phone calls, showers, and timeouts from their cells while physical distance measurements were maintained. Prisoners can also request telephone visits with elders and ministers, Dash said.

“Saskatchewan Prison also provided prisoners with a wellness package that included individual activities and light meals. Meals and medications were delivered to prisoners.”

But Mr Hall said the story advocated by the federal government and the CSC did not reflect his experience in prison at all.

When Hall was tested positive, he was placed in the same cell in the same area as a healthy prisoner. He said he was sometimes given a box of juice and an additional granola bar, but the staff rarely checked how he was doing when he was ill.

“They barely came in. Even if they didn’t feel so good. I couldn’t really breathe,” Hall said.

While in good health, Hall was housed in the same block as the sick prisoner, so he felt “forced” to become infected with the virus. He said the cells were only divided by rods, allowing air to circulate freely between them.

When he was finally released after he recovered, the guards passed him through the general public and out of the front door, Hall said.

“People’s way of saying things are very different from what they actually do and endangers many lives. It doesn’t matter what they do, they’re still humans. Human rights are important and I believe we should not be forced to obtain a COVID or just suffer and see the death of a friend due to it. ”

Hall, a member of the Big River First Nations, lamented the high proportion of indigenous prisoners in Saskatchewan. pen. He said many have become accustomed to prison life and are unable to function outside the system or return to their home communities to feel safe.

He said better programs were needed to reintegrate released prisoners into society. “They only know the prison and they are scared when they come out. So they want to come back soon because that’s all they know.” There are a lot of people out there, “Hall said.

Hall had some words to his friends he left in jail. “Do your best and raise your head. And when you come out, it makes a difference. Instead of making statistics and going back to jail. You can make a better life for yourself.”

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