Sask. Ministry of Corrections trying to get masks for inmates: spokesperson

·3 min read

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Corrections and Policing is working to provide masks to all offenders in provincial correctional facilities, a spokesperson told CBC News.

Offenders were already required to wear a provided mask depending on their unit, whether they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are being transported, the spokesperson said in an email.

Tyler Figley, a 36-year-old inmate at Regina Correctional Centre, said there are currently no ways of purchasing a mask and that the jail only supplies masks for staff members..

"There's boxes of [masks] in the office for the staff members. Quite a few people have attempted to say, 'Can I have one of those?' And the answer is always, 'No, you're not allowed those,'" Figley said via telephone.

Figley works in the kitchen. He said there are masks available for the jail's kitchen employees as well, but those too are not for inmates.

"One of the guys actually managed to get a mask from one of the kitchen staff and it was taken away by one of the corrections officers," Figley said.

Inmates worried of potential outbreak

Figley said the lack of masks is only one of the inmates' worries with regards to COVID-19. The top concern is a potential outbreak.

There are staff members coming in and out of the Regina Correctional Centre, including guards, nurses, kitchen staff and food suppliers, Figley said.

Correctional staff are supposed to have been wearing masks since the summer, according to the ministry spokesperson, but Figley said he's seen staff disregarding that rule and others recently.

Given the cramped quarters of the jail, inmates are concerned that if an employee contracts COVID-19 the virus could spread incredibly quickly among inmates, Figley said.

"We're all in fear that ... if it gets in here and spreads to us that some people can never see the light of day again," he said. "This could be their dying days, sitting in a facility for fines or petty crimes."

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

Figley suggested that some inmates with less serious offences, who have served part of their sentence, should be released from the jail under certain conditions.

Figley said he and the other inmates in his unit have put several questions to jail staff:

  • Is there any plan or dialogue regarding a release program?

  • Is or will there be any regulations regarding physical distancing, and 14-day isolations for people entering and exiting the facility? (A ministry spokesperson said there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for new inmates.)

  • Will masks be provided?

  • Will any privileges, such as the recreational yard or weights, be suspended?

Meanwhile, an inmate and a staff member at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Corrections and Policing.

It is the first inmate at the jail to have tested positive for the illness. The staff member was the third employee to test positive, the spokesperson said.

CBC News Graphics
CBC News Graphics

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