COVID-19 hit federal prisons twice as hard in 2nd wave of pandemic, report says

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COVID-19 has hit federal prisons twice as hard in the second wave of the pandemic compared to the first, according to a new report from Canada’s Correctional Investigator that recommends an inmate vaccination strategy to prevent more outbreaks behind bars.

In a report released Tuesday, Ivan Zinger noted there have been 880 infections between November 2020 and Feb. 1, 2021, up from 361 cases during the first wave of the pandemic.

The number of institutions reporting outbreaks also jumped, from six in the first wave to 13 in the second.

In all, about 10 per cent of the federal prison population has been infected with COVID-19, compared to just two per cent of Canada’s general population.

Zinger recommends that Correctional Service Canada “develop and immediately make public” its plans and priorities for a national inmate vaccination strategy. 

In January, the Liberal government announced that some elderly prisoners with health issues would be prioritized for vaccination, maintaining that the government has a “duty of care” to protect vulnerable inmates. The move was praised by advocates as a sound policy to protect prisoners and the public at large, but it came under fire from the opposition Conservatives, who called it “outrageous” that incarcerated criminals could receive vaccines before some seniors in long-term care homes, front-line health-care workers, first responders and correctional officers…

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