Temporary absences being considered for non-violent inmates amid coronavirus concerns

North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) in Yellowknife. (CKLB file photo).

Earlier this week, more than a dozen NWT lawyers called on corrections facilities to release inmates temporarily to protect them from an outbreak while in jail.

The territorial Department of Justice has since said it is “looking to use Temporary Absences to allow inmates to return to the community where safety and support networks allow.”

This will be done on a case-by-case basis and is only available to non-violent inmates.

As part of the response, the department says it’s working with public prosecutions Canada, courts and defence lawyers to reduce to number of people who would normally go to jail through the remand process.

This is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the corrections facilities.

These measures were published along with a series of other questions on how inmates are being protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inmates are currently being kept individually in each cell. The department says there is enough capacity to house all inmates safely.

The questions are on topics like,

  • Programming: Ongoing but with fewer inmates to maintain social distancing
  • Contact with friends and family: Visitation stopped earlier this month, but allowed in exceptional cases like a death or severe illness in the family. Inmates are also being allowed more phone calls.
  • Symptomatic inmates: Given a mask, isolated from other inmates and tested.
  • Precautions for guards: Reviewing procedures to work with infectious diseases, proper cleaning of surfaces, gloves and masks if dealing with inmates with symptoms.

The full list can be found here.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.