Inmate COVID-19 cases at Sask. Pen account for nearly 30% of all cases in Canada's prisons during 2nd wave

When it comes to the number of coronavirus cases inside Canadian prisons during the second wave of COVID-19, Saskatchewan Penitentiary has been among the hardest hit

A new report, prepared by Canada’s correctional investigator, shows the prison has had the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases among inmates — only trailing behind Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Institution.

Stony Mountain Institution has had 370 cases of the illness since November, while the Prince Albert prison has had 247 cases, according to the report. 

The number of cases at Saskatchewan Penitentiary accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the 880 new cases identified in prisons during the second wave.

The numbers mean Indigenous populations are disproportionately impacted by the virus, as nearly 70 per cent of inmates at these two prairie institutions are Indigenous, according to the report.

The report says there’s a connection between COVID-19 transmission and prison infrastructure. 

Both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan prisons contain “some of the oldest and archaic physical infrastructure in the federal prison system,” the report reads. 

Saskatchewan Penitentiary opened in 1911 and Stony Mountain in 1877. 

The report says the medium security section at Saskatchewan Penitentiary has poor ventilation, large congregate living areas and is prone to overcrowding. 

"The virus spread so fast within the medium security sector that Correctional Service Canada was unable to isolate inmates to a specific range," the report says. 

“By contrast, the spread of the virus through Sask. Pen’s maximum-security sector, which is a newer, stand-alone facility, was slower.” 

Overall, the report found the number of COVID-19 cases at federal facilities more than doubled during the second wave of the pandemic.