Ministry of Corrections says new masks provided to inmates ‘as necessary’


The Ministry of Corrections said inmates are provided with new masks ‘as necessary’ in response to concerns that inmates didn’t have access to unused and clean masks.

The concerns were raised through letters released by prisoner’s advocate Sherri Maier of Beyond Prison Walls Canada. In them, Pine Grove Correctional Centre inmates wrote they were getting rashes and pimples on their faces from wearing the same masks all day.

The Herald reached out the ministry asking if there were supply issues with masks in correctional facilities and how often inmates were replacing used masks.

“Inmates are provided with new masks as necessary,” the ministry responded.

Cuts and delays to counselling and cultural programming, like smudging, have also been a concern. When asked about the issue, the ministry did say group programming was impacted by COVID-19 precautions but didn’t specify which types of programming.

“Corrections staff are working to provide inmates with appropriate programming, while also ensuring that the COVID-19 precautions and restrictions implemented in correctional facilities are followed,” the ministry said.

Maier has also raised concerns about another alleged incident at Pine Grove where inmates had to stand outside while correctional staff went through their things. She said inmates took items such as pillows, blankets and feminine hygiene products.

The ministry did not comment on this incident specifically but said correctional staff conduct searches in provincial facilities for contraband regularly, “to ensure the safety and security of the facility.”

The ministry also explained other COVID-19 precautions they are taking. All offenders who come into a correctional facility receive a medical assessment and are screened and tested for COVID-19. The ministry also said they continue to work with facility staff and public health to make sure inmates get appropriate care.

“Inmates have access to health services and mental health services, as they did before the pandemic,” the ministry wrote.

They further stated that they’re able to provide medical and psychiatric services virtually if needed. They added that if an inmate needs health services beyond what is available in the facility, “staff will ensure this is provided.”

The ministry also touched on visitations.

Concerns were raised by Maier that released inmates living in halfway houses were meeting up with family members at the former inmates’ workplaces. The ministry did not specify if they were aware of these incidents but said reduced custody inmates can call friends and family.

At reduced custody facilities, visitations are not allowed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to inmates.

“Reduced custody inmates are to follow COVID-19 precautions when they are in the community for work or other programming,” the ministry explained.