'They're not sentenced to death': Advocates are renewing calls to vaccinate inmates and guards and in Sask. jails

There have been numerous COVID-19 outbreaks inside provincial jails since the start of the pandemic last year. The latest involves 18 offenders and five staff at the Regina Correctional Centre.

The union representing correctional workers fears a second wave of COVID-19 spread. It’s calling for immediate vaccination of both guards and inmates.

“Inmates have to be done too. It can’t be done piecemeal in an institution. You have to do the staff, you have to do the inmates,” said Barry Nowoselsky, SGEU spokesperson. “I’ve had this question raised with me about the inmates before. Well quite frankly, these people were sentenced to two years less a day. They’re not sentenced to death.”

SGEU estimates 600 COVID-19 cases have now occurred inside provincial facilities since the start of the pandemic. The government suggests that’s not as bad as it sounds.

“Well, 600 cases probably over 12 months. You break it down like that over several facilities. As far as I know – I touched base with the minister of corrections this morning – there are only two facilities that have people COVID positive in them,” said Health Minister Paul Merriman.

The province said it plans to stick to the current age-based vaccination schedule.

“As it’s going right now, corrections workers – most of them would be over the age of 30, they’re going to be done within the next few weeks anyway,” said Merriman.

Public health has been dispatched to the Regina Correctional Centre to test all inmates and staff. Inmates who test positive are being isolated while new arrivals are being held in 14 day quarantine.