Milton, Ont. jail won't accept new prisoners due to COVID-19 outbreak

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The Ontario government has decided that a provincial jail in Milton, Ont. will not accept new prisoners while it continues to fight a major COVID-19 outbreak.

The solicitor-general's ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it will also put Maplehurst Correctional Complex into a "full lockdown" to curb spread of the virus.

Greg Flood, spokesperson for the ministry, said the ministry will divert new admissions to other facilities with the help of police. Ninety inmates and 26 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the provincial jail, as of Sunday.

"Given the evolving situation at MHCC the ministry is moving forward with a full lockdown of the facility to ensure isolation of inmates and reduce potential spread," Flood said.

This decision comes after the union that represents correctional officers called for a halt to new admissions last week.

Peter Figliola, president of Local 234 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said a suspension of new admissions is a positive move.

"Diverting new admissions to other facilities not only prevents new admissions from being exposed to the current outbreak, it also allows us to free up areas so that we can cohort individuals and keep healthy inmates from being exposed," Figliola said.

Figliola said the union has also called for staff to be assigned to only one area of the institution to prevent further spread of the virus.

"These steps coupled with staff being given proper PPE over the course of their shift should help us stop the spread and get this outbreak under control," he said.

Inmates who test positive for COVID-19 are put under "droplet precautions" and isolated from the rest of the inmates while they receive medical care, the ministry says.

The ministry said, over the last number of months, it has made the following changes across all provincial correctional facilities:

  • Testing all newly admitted inmates, with their consent.

  • Housing all newly admitted inmates in a separate area from the general population for 14 days.

  • Masks provided to inmates, if required.

  • Providing personal protective equipment for all staff.

  • Requiring all staff and visitors to always wear masks.

  • Requiring temperature checks for staff and visitors.

  • Working with local public health units to test inmates and staff as appropriate.

  • Increased cleaning measures.

The ministry said it is temporarily suspending any transfers of prisoners from Maplehurst to court and back again and will continue to use video and audio courts as required.

Voluntary staff and inmate testing is continuing and staff who are confirmed positive have gone into isolation, Flood said.

"We are also working to ensure that staff who may have been exposed are taking appropriate steps to isolate and reduce the risk of potential spread."

"The ministry continues to work with its justice partners to reduce the number of individuals coming into custody across Ontario," Flood said.

"These decisions are based on a number of factors to ensure community safety remains paramount."