Union wants inmate transfers stopped as another COVID-19 outbreak hits CNCC

Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ont. (CTV News Barrie)

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) in Penetanguishene, where 11 inmates have tested positive for the virus.

Six of the cases are among inmates who transferred from the Sudbury Jail, which has been closed for two weeks because of an outbreak there.  The remaining cases are inmates housed at the Penetanguishene jail.

Richard Dionne, president of the union representing staff at the facility, confirmed the outbreak in a statement to CTV News.

He said he believes the virus came into the superjail with a positive case among transfers.

"There is no confirmation of the source, but I suspect it to be from a transfer we've recently received," he said.

Andrew Morrison, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, also confirmed the outbreak, stating that the ministry has developed COVID-19 protocols in compliance with the Ministry of Health.

"Protecting the health and safety of correctional services staff and those in provincial custody is the ministry's top priority," Morrison said.

Morrison said newly admitted inmates are screened and tested for COVID-19, adding that they are housed in separate areas from the general population "for 14 days and tested again on day 10."

Still, Dionne said the union wants prisoner transfers stopped to ensure safety.

"The issue with transfers is the ministry has deemed they have completed their isolation period and are clear to be placed into the general population, although the risk remains that the virus can be moved from institution to institution," Dionne said.

"The union has asked for transfers to cease or to isolate transfers. Neither request has been granted throughout this pandemic," he added.

The outbreak, which was declared late Tuesday afternoon, is the third at the correctional facility.