Inmates triple-bunked at Calgary Remand Centre despite 'significant' COVID-19 outbreak: defence lawyer

·2 min read

Despite a "significant outbreak" of COVID-19 at the Calgary Remand Centre, there are reports of inmates being triple-bunked, according to defence lawyers sounding the alarm on conditions at the northwest facility.

During her afternoon update, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw identified 41 cases at CRC, up from just three last Tuesday.

According to a report prepared last week, the CRC has capacity for 34 infected inmates.

The CRC is now on total lockdown. Inmates who are mid-trial — including one murder trial — are not allowed to leave the CRC for court and even CCTV appearances have been cancelled.

CRC is a secure holding facility for those awaiting trial or a bail hearing. Many, if not all, of the inmates there have not been convicted of the charges they are facing.

"It's grossly negligent," said Tom Engel, an Edmonton defence lawyer and president of the Canadian Prison Law Association.

"It's disturbing to hear about a client triple-bunking and someone tests positive, and they just leave them in that situation. I don't know how they could think this is appropriate."

Engel called it a "significant outbreak" taking place in several units.

Hinshaw said AHS is working to ensure strict protocols are maintained with aggressive testing underway.

Masks are just now being provided to inmates. Previously, only those leaving the facility would have access to a mask.

Defence lawyer Chad Haggerty says he has a client who is triple-bunked with new protocols only allowing inmates allowed to leave their cells for 1.5 to 2 hours a day.

Alberta Health Services has previously stated provincial facilities are complying with COVID-19 safety protocols but some inmates say that's not the case.

"I keep hearing from prisoners that what the government and AHS are saying about compliance with COVID protocols in Alberta jails is just completely false."

New transfers to the Calgary Remand Centre spend 14 days on a quarantine unit. If they develop symptoms, they're moved to an isolation unit.

The director of the Calgary Remand Centre was scheduled to meet with the Health Ministry Monday afternoon.