Information about NWT Corrections facilities and COVID-19 readiness

The following is information about how inmate and staff health protection is being handled at NWT Corrections facilities in relation to COVID-19. This information is current as of March 25, 2020.

Inmates and cell capacity

Currently there are sufficient cells to allow for only one inmate per cell. In the event an inmate is symptomatic, Corrections procedures are as follows:

  • Inmate is given a procedural mask to wear;
  • Staff are recruited to wear gloves, gown, protective glasses and a procedural mask;
  • Inmate is put on no-contact and droplet precautions and placed in their own cell away from other inmates;
  • Corrections health services staff consult with Public Health on testing and inmate wellness procedures, and
  • Any symtomatic inmate will remain in isolation until such time as they are medically cleared to move into the general population.

Social distancing in facilities

Currently, there is only one person in each cell. Social distancing is being used throughout the facility. Health services staff are reaching out to inmates and staff continually to reinforce messaging around universal precautions including limiting contact with suraces, hand washing, social distancing. These reminders are posted throughout the facilities.

Social distancing and program delivery

Programming is continuing but is being done in such a manner that respects good social distancing practices by having fewer inmates participate at any given time and running the programs as frequently as is needed to ensure inmates are able to participate.  This includes outdoors traditional activities, crafts, gym time and anything that can be done while respecting the social distancing rules as recommended by the Office of the Chief Medical Health Officer. 

Precautions for Corrections workers to be safe from spread

All Correctional Officers are reviewing procedures on the proper protocols for working with infectious diseases.Corrections procedures are continuing being circulated including enhancing inmate assessment upon intake, monitoring inmates for COVID-19 related symptoms,and universal precautions including the proper cleaning of high contact surfaces and reinforcing safe work practices with all staff.

This includes policies on epidemics and outbreaks.

Protective gear for Corrections workers

Corrections Officers are required to wear personal protective equipment contingent on the level of need. As an example, if an inmate is not symptomatic usually upon intake an Officer is only required to wear gloves. If an inmate is symptomatic, Officers are required to wear gloves, a gown and a procedural mask.

Currently the facilities have sufficient supplies available for inmate and staff personal protective equipment requirements. We know there will be challenges to replenish this stock and will be continuing to source suppliers as needed.

Inmate contact with family and friends

Personal visits were stopped earlier this month to try and limit contact with inmates and the public. Inmates have had additional phone calls added daily to contact family and friends due to the cancellation of visitor access. Inmates are also able to still write letters. In exceptional circumstances visitors may be allowed such as in the case of a family member’s death or illness.

Confidential in-person meetings with official visitors (such as legal counsel, spiritual advisors, Elders) will be accommodated as much as possible without permitting direct personal contact.

Lockdowns

Lockdowns are utilized as a last resort and their use are dependent on Corrections contingency planning. Specific details of Corrections contingency plans are unable to be shared.

Capacity of NWT facilities

Currently, none of our Correctional facilities are near capacity and only one inmate is in each cell. The numbers will change daily, however, the principle of one inmate, one cell will be maintained.

Plans for nonviolent inmate release

The Department of Justice is working with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the Courts, defence lawyers and other partners in the justice system to reduce the number of people who may be coming into Corrections facilities through the remand process. This work is done to ensure that only people who are a risk to public safety are being remanded in our facilities.

Additionally, as inmates are close to the end of their sentences, the department is looking to use Temporary Absences to allow inmates to return to the community where safety and support networks allow. Each case is reviewed individually considering the risk of the individual. This is only for non-violent inmates.

Procedures for remanded inmates

Every inmates entering any correctional facility is required to undergo a health screening questionnaire, which includes screening for symptoms related to COVID-19. Medical clearance is required before they are able to enter the general population. In the event an inmate is symptomatic, they are held in isolation apart from other inmates until medically cleared.

Procedures for regular inmate intake

Corrections has implemented a COVID-19 related health screening questionnaire to check inmates upon entry into a facility. Inmates displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are to be isolated until medically cleared for entry into the general population.

Inmates showing COVID symptoms

Procedures are in place to assess inmates of COVID-19 symptoms including a health questionnaire and assessment completed during intake. In the event an inmate is symptomatic they are isolated from other inmates, precautions are taken and health staff contact Public Health for arranging testing requirements.

The Corrections Service has existing procedures in place for epidemics and outbreaks. The principles of isolation and good health practices are similar to other respiratory type illnesses. Correctional Officers are aware of procedures and the proper protocols for working with inmates who may have an infectious disease.

Youth facility

The Youth facility is specifically designated for youth; currently we are unable to utilize it for adult inmates. Corrections has contingency plans in place for managing the NWT inmate population when epidemics and outbreaks occur.

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