Focus On

Manitoba bringing new in-custody quarantines, more inmate phone time

Thursday, April 02, 2020 @ 2:55 PM | By Terry Davidson

Manitoba Justice is automatically quarantining all adults and youth newly in custody as part of continued efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities.

Starting April 2, new admissions to all adult and youth correctional centres in the province will be handled by the Winnipeg Remand Centre (WRC), according to a bulletin recently released by Manitoba’s government.  

“All individuals coming to custody will be isolated for up to 14 days to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 into facilities,” it states.

A department spokesperson confirmed that adult and youth from across the province will spend their time in isolation at the WRC. Those who remain in custody will be taken to the appropriate correctional facilities once their time in isolation is done. 

“We are providing additional support from provincial sheriff services to assist with transportation from rural areas, as needed,” the spokesperson said. “There are protocols in place for the use of personal protective equipment and other measures to help reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, for staff as well as individuals in custody.” 

The bulletin also states that all in-person visits to inmates in both adult and youth correctional centres have been suspended, as have inmate programs, staff training and “other group activities.”

However, the province is increasing the number of free phone calls for those in custody to help them “maintain contact with their support systems” on the outside.

Lawyers, however, are still able to have in-person meetings with in-custody clients at all facilities, save for the WRC.

“Lawyers are encouraged to meet with clients remotely, whenever possible, but in-person visits with clients can continue at all facilities, with the exception of the WRC,” states the bulletin. “Cleaning procedures in all Manitoba’s correctional centres have increased significantly including the use of fogging equipment to disinfect large and high-traffic areas. Protocols for the use of personal protective equipment are in place to ensure the safety of staff and inmates.” 

Also starting April 2, there will be greater access to bail hearings during both evenings and on weekends, which “will increase the efficiency of the system, ensure timely bails and other hearings and limit unnecessary admissions to the WRC.”

Crowns will work evenings, overnights and weekends “for consultations and hearings and to work with defence counsel on sentencing recommendations.”

“The province is also working with police agencies to expand remote bail hearings in the north. The number of court hearings that can be held by phone will also be increased to avoid unnecessary transportation of people out of their communities.”