LeBron James’ media group, others sued for $33 million over ‘More Than An Athlete’ phrase

LeBron James’ media group, Uninterrupted, and several others are being sued by a Maryland youth group for its use of the phrase “More Than An Athlete,” according to ESPN.

The youth group is seeking “$33 million and injunctive relief,” per the report, which would require others to stop using the phrase. They named Uninterrupted, ESPN, Nike and the creators of the NBA 2K video game series in the lawsuit for using the phrase.

According to ESPN, Game Plan Inc. said it applied to trademark the phrase “I Am More Than An Athlete” in 2016 and used the phrase on shirts at a Washington Wizards game in 2017. A group of players wore the shirts for a photo with Wizards guard John Wall before the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers — James’ former team. 

The group, per the report, was awarded the trademark for the phrase with their logo on June 5, 2018. 

James started using the phrase in 2018, and it quickly expanded to appear on Nike clothing, his ESPN series and the NBA 2K video game. He first used it shortly after Fox’s Laura Ingraham said on her show that James should “shut up and dribble” rather than get involved in politics or other non-sports related topics after he and Kevin Durant slammed President Donald Trump in an interview ahead of the All-Star Game that year. Naturally, her comments didn’t go over well with James or countless other athletes.

James posted a photo to Instagram with the phrase “I Am More Than An Athlete” after Ingraham’s comments, and used the hashtag “#wewillnotshutupanddribble.”

ESPN did not comment on the lawsuit in its report, however Uninterrupted did release a statement:

“The complaint filed by Game Plan today is meritless and contains numerous factual inaccuracies. Uninterrupted owns prior rights in and to the More Than An Athlete trademark.”

A youth group in Maryland is suing LeBron James’ media group over the phrase “More Than An Athlete.” (AP/David Zalubowski)

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A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the family statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”Withers’ songs during his brief career have become the soundtracks of countless engagements, weddings and backyard parties. They have powerful melodies and perfect grooves melded with a smooth voice that conveys honesty and complex emotions without vocal acrobatics.“Lean on Me,” a paean to friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.“He’s the last African-American Everyman,” musician and band leader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”His death caused a torrent of appreciation on social media, including from former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who said Withers' music has been a cherished part of her life. “It added to my joy in the good times, and also gave me comfort and inspiration when I needed it most,” she tweeted.Billy Dee Williams tweeted “your music cheered my heart and soothed my soul” and Chance the Rapper said Withers' songs are “some of the best songs of all time” and “my heart really hurts for him.” Lenny Kravitz said “My soul always has and always will be full of your music.”“We lost a giant of songwriting today," ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams said in a statement. "Bill Withers’ songs are among the most treasured and profound in the American songbook — universal in the way they touch people all over the world, transcending genre and generation. He was a beautiful man with a stunning sense of humour and a gift for truth.”Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his parents divorced when he was 3, Withers was raised by his mother’s family in nearby Beckley.He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract.In 1971, signed to Sussex Records, he put out his first album, “Just As I Am,” with the legendary Booker T. Jones at the helm. It had the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which was inspired by the Jack Lemmon film “Days of Wine and Roses.” He was photographed on the cover, smiling and holding his lunch pail.“Ain’t No Sunshine” was originally released as the B-side of his debut single, “Harlem.” But radio DJs flipped the disc and the song climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard charts and spent a total of 16 weeks in the top 40.Withers went on to generate more hits a year later with the inspirational “Lean on Me,” the menacing “Who Is He (and What Is He to You)” and the slinky “Use Me” on his second album, “Still Bill.”Later would come the striking “ Lovely Day,” co-written with Skip Scarborough and featuring Withers holding the word “day” for almost 19 seconds, and “Just the Two Of Us,” co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. His “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1973 made Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.“The hardest thing in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that,” Sting said in “Still Bill,” a 2010 documentary of Withers.But Withers’ career stalled when Sussex Records went bankrupt and he was scooped up by Columbia Records. He no longer had complete control over his music and chafed when it was suggested he do an Elvis cover. His new executives found Withers difficult.None of his Columbia albums reached the Top 40 except for 1977’s “Menagerie,” which produced “Lovely Day.” (His hit duet with Grover Washington Jr. “Just the Two of Us” was on Washington’s label). Withers’ last album was 1985's “Watching You Watching Me.”Though his songs often dealt with relationships, Withers also wrote ones with social commentary, including “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about an injured Vietnam War veteran.He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just the Two Of Us” in 1981. In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit “ Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau.He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder. Withers thanked his wife as well as the R&B pioneers who helped his career like Ray Jackson, Al Bell and Booker T. Jones. He also got in a few jabs at the record industry, saying A&R stood for “antagonistic and redundant.” Withers also was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.His music has been covered by such artists as Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney, Sting, Johnny Mathis, Aaron Neville, Al Jarreau, Mick Jagger, Nancy Wilson, Diana Ross. His music has been sampled for BlackStreet’s “No Diggity,” Will Smith’s version of “ Just the Two Of Us, ” Black Eyed Peas’ “Bridging the Gap” and Twista’s “Sunshine.” The song “Lean on Me” was the title theme of a 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman.His songs are often used on the big screen, including “The Hangover,” “28 Days,” “American Beauty,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Crooklyn,” “Flight,” “Beauty Shop,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Flight.”“I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia,” Withers told Rolling Stone in 2015.He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press

  • Edmonton man with Parkinson's and dementia gets support from strangers online
    News
    CBC

    Edmonton man with Parkinson's and dementia gets support from strangers online

    An Edmonton woman says her Twitter notifications are piling up after she sent out a tweet last weekend looking for support for her 85-year-old dad. Lynn Farrugia's father Jim Hamilton is battling Parkinson's disease and dementia. Because of the new COVID-19 rules around physical distancing, he hasn't been able to go to his day program, where he exercises and does activities.So Farrugia asked her friends and Twitter followers for help.She asked people to take a few minutes to send drawings, photos, or any interesting articles by mail. "At first I heard from a couple people that I know who have kids and that's sort of what I expected," said Farrugia, whose Twitter account has a modest 965 followers. She received a number of responses before one of her friends retweeted her original tweet.That aught the attention of someone at ATB Financial who decided to take it a step further — and got the Edmonton Oilers involved. "That's when I realized, 'Oh my goodness, what have I done?'" said Farrugia.Her dad has been an Oilers fan since Day 1.He followed the team from its early years in the World Hockey Association, and before that, the Edmonton Oil Kings. During the Oilers' glory years in the 1980s, he was a season ticket holder for 10 years.Farrugia's tweet eventually led to Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins responding with a tweet of his own via ATB's Twitter account. Anne Hamilton, Jim's wife of 56 years, played No. 93's message for her husband on their computer."Oh, he certainly was pleased and surprised to get the video from Ryan," Anne said. Even in his struggles, there will be something there that he remembers. \- Lynn FarrugiaThe Nuge, as he's known to fans in Edmonton, also sent Hamilton a signed Oilers jersey."Then, of course, the jersey arrived, which was a surprise. I didn't think it would get here that fast," Anne said.She took photos of her husband unpacking the jersey and holding it in his hands.She shared them with her family."My dad has this wonderful little impish grin," said Farrugia, who got the photos via text message. "Just to see the photos with the grin on his face, and I just knew he'll never forget this. Even in his struggles, there will be something there that he remembers."   He also received a letter from five- and six-year-old siblings, photos of people's pets, and plenty of requests from people asking how they can write to Hamilton directly.The gestures of kindness, in some cases from complete strangers, lift her husband's spirits and hers too, Anne said."It's been very heartwarming," she said, adding she may have to increase her visits to the mailbox."I think it's kind of exciting that you've got something to look forward to," she said."When I see how much he enjoys getting the things, then it makes me feel good."

  • Toronto could see up to 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, city facing $65M cost each week: officials
    News
    CBC

    Toronto could see up to 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, city facing $65M cost each week: officials

    Toronto could see anywhere from 600 to 3,000 deaths by the end of the COVID-19 pandemic based on projections unveiled by the provincial government Friday, the city's medical officer of health says.At the same time, the strain of COVID-19 is costing Toronto $65 million a week as revenues from deferred property tax, decreased transit use and increasing costs for things like personal protective equipment and additional shelter spaces, the city said Friday.Mayor John Tory spoke of the increasing demands on the city at a news conference hours after Ontario unveiled worrying projections about the toll that the virus could take on the city, calling on both the provincial and federal government to do more to support cities bearing the brunt of the spread."I was scared," Tory said of his reaction upon seeing the projections. "I'm not ashamed to say that. Who wouldn't be?" Tory also announced the city could impose a $1,000 fine on anyone caught breaking a bylaw announced Thursday, prohibiting people from standing within two metres of each other in city parks and squares. A judge could levy a higher fine if a case lands in court, up to a maximum of $5,000.To date, the city has received almost 1,000 complaints about the use of parks and inappropriate physical distancing, and Toronto police have so far issued 21 tickets to individuals.'These deaths are preventable'The city announced Friday it is cancelling spring recreation, arts, and museum programs, meaning some 5,400 recreational workers normally hired at this time of year will not be. The briefing follows the province's unveiling of what Premier Doug Ford deemed "stark" modelling projections for COVID-19 in Ontario, suggesting 1,600 Ontarians could die by the end of April if nothing more is done to stem the spread. All told, the models suggest the virus could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people over the course of the pandemic. As of Friday afternoon, Toronto reported a total of 812 confirmed cases of COVID-19, another 174 probable cases, with 89 people in hospital, 42 of which are in intensive care. The city has also seen 13 deaths.Of the infections so far, 27 per cent have been identified as community spread."These deaths are preventable. This is what keeps me up at night," Toronto's medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said.De Villa called the modelling released by the province "sobering" and "even scary," but said she hopes it serves as a "wake-up call" to anyone not taking the need for physical distancing seriously. Over half of province's cases in Toronto areaSince Jan. 15, 2020, Greater Toronto Area public health units account for 53 per cent of Ontario's more than 3,200 cases of the virus.Meanwhile, the number of available intensive care beds in certain parts of the Toronto area is rapidly shrinking as the number of COVID-19 patients surges higher, according to data obtained by CBC News. On Thursday, city officials announced a new bylaw prohibiting people from standing within two metres of each other in some parts of the city.The bylaw will remain in effect for at least the next 30 days and is limited to interactions in city parks and squares, where city officials say they are seeing the most problems with crowding. The bylaw is also limited to two or more people who don't live together. Toronto Public Health advised this week that people limit their time outdoors to essential trips, but the updated guidelines still allow for walking pets or getting daily exercise so long as physical distancing of two metres is possible.The measures come as temperatures creep upward with the start of spring, with some converging on parks and boardwalks, raising concerns that the rules may not be being taken seriously enough.Also Friday, the Toronto Zoo announced it is temporarily laying off 118 non-permanent employees. The changes, effective April 6, largely affect the zoo's guest relations, retail and membership, communications, events, custodial, transit and human resource staff, among other areas.  Another 275 summer positions are "on hold" until the city directs the zoo on a possible reopening date. "It is important to note that animal care and staff safety remain our highest priorities and these staffing decisions do not impact full-time staff who work directly with our animals," spokesperson Katie Gray said in a statement.

  • B.C. mothers of children with autism plead for more government help during COVID-19 pandemic
    News
    CBC

    B.C. mothers of children with autism plead for more government help during COVID-19 pandemic

    Dena Ashbaugh's eight-year-old son, Zack, had one goal in Grade 3.Zack Ashbaugh, who is dyslexic and on the autism spectrum, wanted to learn how to read one page of a book by himself. But with schools shut due to COID-19, Dena  doesn't think it will happen for him this year."As a mom, it is heartbreaking," said Ashbaugh. The North Vancouver resident has two children on the autism spectrum. Her youngest, Baker, six, has also been diagnosed with pathological demand avoidance, which makes him prone to violent outbursts when asked to do routine tasks.The Ashbugh's are one of many British Columbia families struggling to meet the complex care and educational needs of children with autism in the midst of a pandemic. With support workers unable to visit clients and schools closed, parents and advocates are calling on the Ministry of Children and Family Development to relax funding rules so more can be done to provide for special needs children and their families.Recommendations to provinceDeborah Pugh, executive director of Autism Community Training (ACT), said the organization has been pushing the ministry for weeks to provide guidance to families and made recommendations in mid-March about how they could help.Children over age six in B.C. are allotted $6,000 annually for supports like speech therapy, respite workers and behavioural interventionists. Families must spend the money within a year by the child's birthday or it is lost.ACT wants the ministry to let the money roll over into the next year, because so many services are unavailable right now.Campbell River resident Justine Taylor has a son, Emery, 12, and a daughter, Hadley 8, who are both on the autism spectrum and have birthdays in May. Taylor said she is set to lose $1,500 in needed money next month.She said the ministry told her to look for online solutions to help her kids, which she said is not a solution for some children on the spectrum, such as her son, who has issues with social and emotional regulation."It feels like our kids are just falling through the cracks one more time," said Taylor.Another recommendation made by ACT and echoed by Taylor and Dena Ashbaugh is for MCFD to remove restrictions on money that can be spent on equipment recommended by support workers.Twenty per cent of the funding families receive is meant for equipment support workers think can benefit the children. ACT would like that cap lifted so families can do more now.Taylor said the ministry recommends families look for online learning and support resources and this money could help families buy iPads so their children can connect to support workers and online educational tools.Missing school supportsThe Taylor children are educated at home, but the Ashbaugh boys usually attend school. Dena Ashbaugh is also hoping the Ministry of Education will find ways to help special needs students.Dena, who was diagnosed with autism herself last summer, says she is struggling to provide 24/7 care for her children who are used to a team of support workers at school."I am the person, out of a whole web of support, I am the last thread holding all of that weight," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. Karla Verschoor, executive director of Inclusion B.C., says the Ministry of Education should step up to help. It has said schools will stay open with limited staff to support children whose parents are essential front-line workers. Verschoor suggests they also prioritize one-on-one support for students with special needs when safe to do so.In a statement, the Ministry of Education said it is working with MCFD to support families with children who have autism, including continued service and support to families from a range of programs.It said school districts have been asked to ensure they have access to continued learning at home and to consider alternate delivery models for specialized supports.CBC reached out to the Ministry of Children and Families April 1 and has yet to receive a direct response.

  • Member of Turkish band dies on 288th day of hunger strike
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Member of Turkish band dies on 288th day of hunger strike

    ANKARA, Turkey — A member of a popular folk music group that is banned in Turkey died on the 288th day of a hunger strike she and a colleague started while imprisoned to protest the government's treatment of their band, according to a post on the group's Twitter account.Grup Yorum said singer Helin Bolek, 28, died Friday at a home in Istanbul where she had been staging the hunger strike in an attempt to pressure the government into reversing its position on the band and its members.Grup Yorum, known for its protest songs, is a folk collective with rotating band members. It has been prohibited from performing in Turkey since 2016, and authorities have jailed some of its members.The government accuses Grup Yorum of links to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP/C. The militant group is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.Bolek and fellow band member, Ibrahim Gokcek, had embarked on a the hunger strike while in prison to press the government to lift the ban and free detained band members. They were released in November.The two were demanding that Grup Yorum be allowed to resume concerts, that jailed band members be released and that lawsuits against the group be dropped. Two Grup Yorum band members, including Gokcek’s wife, remain in prison.Bolek and Gokcek were forcibly hospitalized on March 11 but discharged a week later after they refused treatment, the Ankara-based Human Rights Association, or IHD, said.IHD said a delegation of human rights activists met with Turkey's deputy interior minister last month to seek a solution that would end the hunger strike. The government refused to “assess" the demands until the protest was called off, the association said.Zulfu Livanelli, a popular Turkish singer and songwriter who sang with Grup Yorum during one of their 2012 concerts, expressed sadness over Bolek's death on Twitter, saying “ the struggle to prevent hunger strikes from not resulting in death has unfortunately failed."Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but consume liquids that prolong their protests.Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press

  • Dalhousie team uses 3D printing to build prototype for face shield
    News
    CBC

    Dalhousie team uses 3D printing to build prototype for face shield

    The mechanical engineering department at Dalhousie University has developed a face shield for health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.Working in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the department has developed a prototype using 3D printing technology."Basically, over about a week we designed, printed and tested a whole raft of ideas," said Dr. Cliff Johnston, an associate professor at the university's mechanical engineering department. "Eventually we got it down to one or two that we liked."Team worked from homeJohnston said the small team worked on the project individually with 3D printers they took home so they could remain isolated.As they continued to make tweaks they came up with a final design of a plastic headband, clear plastic shield and elastic bands.Next came the task of mass production. A different model, using injection moulding, was considered."We could 3D print about a thousand of these a week, whereas if you did injection moulding of the product you could make about 10,000 a week," said Johnston.Johnston has been told the health authority still has a good supply of masks for health-care workers. But the fear is if the system begins to get overloaded, that supply could dwindle quickly.Mass production availableJohnston's team has provided a report to NSHA that included a manufacturer that could quickly mass produce the masks."They would take a week to get the moulds made," said Johnston. "In 10 weeks they could have 100,000 made if they needed it."The decision to move forward with the manufacturing of the product now lies with the health authority.The work being done by the Halifax team began immediately after the federal government called on universities and research institutes to offer their expertise against the coronavirus.MORE TOP STORIES

  • City of Vancouver to provide cleaning and meals to Downtown Eastside SROs to slow COVID-19
    News
    CBC

    City of Vancouver to provide cleaning and meals to Downtown Eastside SROs to slow COVID-19

    The City of Vancouver has secured contracts to provide regular cleaning and meal delivery to residents at 21 single-room occupancy hotels on the Downtown Eastside.Mayor Kennedy Stewart says according to the latest updates from health officials there are currently no confirmed outbreaks or clusters in the neighbourhood. "We need to take more steps to keep it that way for longer," he said during a news conference on Friday.City needs federal funding, says mayorStewart says the additional cleaning and meals are only stop gap measures."The food and cleaning contracts are only for the next two weeks, but we know they are critical for helping people keep their distance."He's appealing to Vancouver residents and businesses to contribute whatever funding or supplies they can by going to the giveahandvancouver.ca website.He's also calling on other levels of government to step up."We are talking to senior levels of government and other funding partners from charitable and philanthropic communities about how we can keep these programs going and add more services and programs that will slow transmission as we head toward the peak of the outbreak.''The city says the Coal Harbour and Roundhouse community centres are now operating as referral-only emergency response centres ready to house up to 160 people.Hundreds of hotel rooms have also been secured and Stewart says B.C. Housing expects there are enough of them to meet the needs identified by local health authorities."While we don't have an outbreak or cluster in the Downtown Eastside at the time, Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the virus is present in every community," said Stewart. "It's only a matter of time before it is in the Downtown Eastside."Karen Ward, longtime Downtown Eastside resident and community organizer, believes the additional housing will make a huge difference."If people need to self isolate, simply having the option to [be housed] is going to make a huge difference because they didn't have that option like a week ago"'Stop-gap' measuresThe municipality has also partnered with the Atira Women's Resource Society to open a warehouse distribution centre at 41 East Hastings St. to provide the community with supplies.Atira CEO Janice Abbot says they're in need of gloves, cleaning supplies and cellphones but also puzzles, games, magazines and books for those in isolation."Starting Monday you can drop stuff off," she said. "The distribution centre will supply every organization in the Downtown Eastside."Also on Monday, Abbott says a transition house will open for women who are fleeing violence. "For them home is not a safe place to recover."Mayor 'satisfied' with physical distancingTwo weeks after blasting reports of groups gathering outside, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says most people are now complying with physical distancing measures.Watch: Mayor Kennedy Stewart talks about the progress Vancouverites are making physical distancingIn response to a question about whether he would consider enforcing those measures with fines as cities like Toronto and Montreal are doing, Stewart said that he would wait for directions from the provincial health officer.Safe supply plan rolling outLast week, the provincial government released its plan to provide a safe supply of drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic amidst fears of an increasingly toxic illegal drug supply.Between March 23 and 29, Vancouver recorded eight suspected overdose deaths, the highest weekly toll since August 2019, according to the City of Vancouver.Ward, an advocate for drug users, says she witnessed a huge spike in drug purchasing after last Wednesday, the day people were able to cash their monthly welfare cheque."All the money that is going to exist in the neighborhood legitimately gets dumped on the neighbourhood on one day," she said. Abbot has concerns that the safe supply plan still poses too many obstacles to people who use drugs."Prescriptions are still required which means you have to get in touch with a doctor," she said. "Not all people in the Downtown Eastside are attached to a doctor or a clinic."She worries that many community members don't know that a safe supply is available and that there aren't enough doctors to meet demand in a timely way.

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will 'pull out all the stops' on medical equipment distribution
    Global News

    Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will 'pull out all the stops' on medical equipment distribution

    During a COVID-19 update on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed the Trump administration's order to have medical supply firm 3M stop selling N95 respirators to Canada, calling it a “very important issue” and saying that all ministers are working “directly with our U.S. counterparts.” Freeland also said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “very personally involved" in resolving the issue.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Nova Scotia police charge business, several people for violating COVID-19 rules

    HALIFAX — Police in Nova Scotia say they have charged several people and one business for violating provincial laws meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.RCMP say three people were charged Wednesday and fined $697.50 under the Emergency Management Act for failing to comply with orders under the act.The same day, the Mounties charged a business and another person under the Health Protection Act, with the business fined $7,500 and the individual fined $1,000.Meanwhile, Halifax Regional police say a 35-year-old man was issued a summary offence ticket on Wednesday and fined $1,000 under the Health Protection Act for failing to provide safe social distancing to others at a bus shelter.Halifax police say since the province declared a state of emergency on March 22, they have issued a total of seven summary offence tickets, with six in relation to people being in prohibited areas and one in relation to social distancing.They say officers have responded to 457 COVID-19 related calls.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • News
    CBC

    Province-wide group calls for massive release of Sask. prisoners to stop spread of COVID-19

    A province-wide group of law professors, lawyers and legal groups is calling for a massive prisoner release from Saskatchewan jails."We're asking specifically for the Ministry of Corrections to look at releasing people convicted of non-violent crimes. People over 50 people who are immunocompromised," said Pierre Hawkins, legal counsel for the John Howard Society."Cells are occupied by individuals. So as it stands there's a lot of double-bunking in the system. And so we would like to make sure that one inmate could stay in a cell if they would like and that in dormitories the people are able to maintain that social distancing, two meters, that's recommended by the public health authorities."The group sent an open letter with 30 signatories to Corrections and Policing minister Christine Tell. It says COVID-19 poses a risk in jail because of overcrowding, the healthcare issues of inmates and the movement of people."This overcrowding will lead to the unmanageable spread of disease," the letter says.The letter says that people need to appreciate that issues inside jails could easily become issues outside jail if no action is taken."The significant traffic in and out of correctional facilities every day will continue. Correctional and medical staff come and go regularly," it said."New admissions and releases happen daily. It is not a question of whether the virus will spread through the prisons, it is a question of how quickly."During a news conference Friday, the ministry said it had reviewed the letter and that some of its recommendations  had already been put into place. "This includes but is not limited to enhanced cleaning measures and the hiring of outside cleaners, suspending or limiting programing to accommodate smaller groups of offenders, increased communication on preventative hygiene measures and controlled access to hand sanitizer," ministry spokesperson Noel Busse said.He said inmates have access to free calls to chaplains or elders on top of two free 10-minute calls daily.The ministry said it had no plans to change early release or reintegration programming.