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Federal prisoner says he likely won't survive if he gets COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 10, 2020 at 11:13 pm PDT

FILE -- Federal prison guards are flagging health and safety concerns in pushing for changes to planned needle exchange programs in penitentiaries. The Matsqui Institution, a medium-security federal men's prison, is seen in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday October 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

As cases of COVID-19 emerge in prisons, inmates are becoming increasingly worried about their health

The inmate described his health situation to a parole board hearing last week

The parole board makes no mention of the prisoner's condition in its report but does say he is at risk to re-offend

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) – With the 15th case of COVID-19 emerging from a federal prison in B.C., inmates are increasingly worried about their own health.

One prisoner says he won’t survive if he comes down with the virus.


The inmate, who wants to remain anonymous, is incarcerated at Matsqui institution, which has no known cases of COVID-19.

He has bronchial asthma, and takes two types of medication to keep the condition under control. He understands he only has a small chance of surviving, should he get the virus.

The 44-year-old was sentenced in 1998 for 28 years for a number of offences including aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm and forcible confinement. He was released to a halfway house in September of 2019, but he was sent back to prison following issues with staff at the home.

His parole board hearing was last week, and it decided his parole was to be officially revoked.

RELATED: Number of COVID-19 cases at B.C. federal prisons continue to rise

“I went in front of the parole board and I mentioned my underlying health issues, especially with everything in the news and what’s being said about people with pre-existing health issues and the parole board didn’t take that into consideration whatsoever.”

The parole board’s report makes no mention of the inmate’s health but does say he poses a risk to the community.

He feels the system isn’t taking his health condition seriously and isn’t happy about having to spend more time behind bars.

“Yeah, I was disappointed because it comes across as ‘you are in prison serving a sentence. If you do contract the COVID virus and die in prison, it is what it is. It’s not our problem,” he says.

He also claims inmates who are 65 years and older were recently given letters, warning them of the virus and to contact the staff if they have any symptoms. He wonders why he didn’t receive one.

The Correctional Service of Canada says “it is committed to protecting the safety of staff, inmates, and the public in all of our operations.”

RELATED: Mission Institution headed for ‘explosive’ COVID-19 outbreak, prison doctor says

In a statement, it says “We continue to educate staff and offenders to prevent the spread of illness through ongoing communications, including posters, fact sheets, regular communiqués and engaging locally at sites to provide information verbally. The posters are up at our sites across the country and we do ongoing communiqués to all inmates. They are printed and hand-delivered to each inmate.”

As of Wednesday, there were 15 federal inmates in B.C. confirmed with COVID-19. There are 14 cases in Mission Medium plus one inmate being treated at the Pacific Regional Treatment Centre. Two guards have also tested positive.

One case has also been identified at the Okanagan Correctional Centre. Roughly 100 low-risk inmates have been released from provincial facilities to decrease the risk of outbreaks.