123 inmates, 14 staff test positive for COVID-19 at Sask. Pen.
PRINCE ALBERT -- As of Wednesday, 120 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in the medium security unit, according to Correctional Service Canada (CSC).
In addition, there are three active inmate cases at the maximum security unit and 14 active cases among employees, who are self-isolating.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) issued a Public Health Order on Dec. 20 that staff must only travel to their home and work until Dec. 27. Mass testing for COVID-19 is being offered to all staff and inmates, includes asymptomatic individuals, with rapid test kits, that are then laboratory-confirmed.
Krystle Lapointe says her boyfriend Christopher Yetman tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 22 despite his best efforts to sanitize and stay away from infected inmates. He is serving a sentence in medium security.
“I didn’t really expected that number to be that high,” Lapointe said. “But to be 43 out of 46 people, you wonder in that 43, how many are going to get really bad, which ones are going to get really bad, do their families know?”
Deputy warden Lee Anne Skene says contact tracing is underway and a third-party cleaner has been brought in to enhance cleaning at the facility.
“Consultations were completed with the Red Cross as well as SHA Public Health and CSC health service partners and the decision was made to quarantine and leave offenders in the areas that they were. Population pressures continue to be a challenge at Sask Penitentiary as well,” said Skene.
Members of the Red Cross have re-routed traffic flows to ensure physical distancing to reduce transmission between buildings. Garbage is now taken from the ranges and out of the prison so it doesn’t contaminate hallways.
CSC says offenders continue to have access to nurses, physicians and cold mediations. Skene says if an inmate’s conditions worsens they would be moved to a hospital or health care facility outside of the prison.
“They know what they’ve done and they want to serve their time but they want to do it in a safe way,” said Lapointe. Christopher is set to have a parole hearing on in May and Lapointe says she and Chris’ family are looking forward to reuniting with Christopher after his time severed.
Lapointe alleges CSC did not follow through with COVID-19 protocols outlined on their website to help prevent the spread of the virus. She said inmates have only been given masks and lack hand sanitizer, soap and gloves.
“If they did what they said they were going to do, we wouldn’t be at this,” Lapointe said.
All in-person visits to inmates are suspended until further notice.