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Consider releasing some inmates to stem COVID-19 in prisons, minister requests

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has asked the federal prison service and the parole board to look at early release for some offenders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for the minister, says the government is committed to protecting inmates, correctional staff and the public given the unique risks the virus poses for prisons.

The Correctional Service and the Parole Board of Canada had no immediate comment on the minister’s request.

The prison service said Monday two inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at a maximum-security prison in Quebec, the first confirmed cases involving prisoners in a federal institution.

The service said nine employees who work at the Port-Cartier penitentiary also tested positive for the virus.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which represents officers in 49 federal institutions, says the release of a few inmates would not stem the spread of COVID-19 in prison but would increase the risk for Canadians.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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