The president of the Alberta Prison Justice Society is calling for drastic action after almost two-thirds of inmates at the Calgary Correctional Centre contracted COVID-19.
Amanda Hart-Dowhun has written an open letter to Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and his deputy, as well as to the Alberta Health Services medical director for correctional facilities and the director of the provincial jail.
Hart-Dowhun notes the outbreak has grown to infect at least 104 inmates and 20 staff at the Calgary jail.
She cites a CBC News report in which inmates describe living in filthy conditions, being forced to sleep on the floor and receiving intermittent medical attention.
She says the conditions described in the article are like a third-world prison cell and are far below the legal standard for inmates in Canada.
Hart-Dowhun is calling for immediate action that could require releasing inmates temporarily into the community.
"You must take drastic action to prevent further spread of COVID amongst inmates and staff and to ensure that you are able to maintain basic human rights for the inmates in your care," she wrote in the letter dated Monday.
"If you do not take drastic action now, you are risking the lives of a large number of people that you are responsible for keeping safe, and you will be holding inmates in conditions that clearly breach Canadian human rights standards."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2020