Coronavirus quarantine at Saskatoon Correctional Centre reaches one week

The Saskatoon Correctional Centre’s novel coronavirus quarantine hit the one-week mark Tuesday as officials considered options to fight COVID-19.

On March 10, nearly 160 inmates went into quarantine after one offender said he came into contact with someone who had the virus. Six of the jail’s 13 living areas were quarantined at the time.

During a media conference call Tuesday, a spokesperson for Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Corrections and Policing described the situation as “fluid.” Noel Busse said that prevents him from providing specific, daily inmate quarantine numbers.

“There has been a change in regards to the quarantine situation, but it’s an ongoing … rapidly-evolving situation,” Busse said, adding the quarantine is a preventative measure.

As part of its attempts to “mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the provincial correctional system,” the spokesperson said the provincial government is “looking at options of how to more effectively manage the offender population.”

He didn’t offer details about what potential changes could look like and said no decisions have been made.

“But any decisions will be made in the best interest of public safety.”

Shawn Fraser, CEO of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, said provincial jails had an overcrowding problem before the pandemic.

He told Global News some people currently on remand could be released to alleviate population pressure, though it would need to happen in a smart and responsible way.

“There are some people in Saskatchewan prisons that might have a better chance at staying healthy with other measures in the community,” Fraser said.

According to corrections officials, the offender who prompted the initial complaint said he came into contact with the infected person from either Alberta or British Columbia while being transported from Lloydminster to the Saskatoon Correctional Centre with seven other offenders.

According to Saskatchewan officials, Alberta and B.C. staff have no record of a person having COVID-19 that would have transmitted it to the inmate.

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