NANAIMO (NEWS 1130) — In-person visits are still being allowed at one federal prison in B.C. despite provincial restrictions on gathering with anyone outside of one’s immediate household.
William Head Institution is a minimum-security facility, about 25 kilometres west of Victoria that holds about 150 inmates. It’s the only prison in B.C. run by Correctional Services Canada still accepting visitors, and the union representing correctional officers wants those visits to stop.
A federal prison in BC is still accepting in-person visits, despite order telling us not to see ppl. outside our household. Correctional officers at William Head Institution want to know why.
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) January 30, 2021
Derek Chin, President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers for the Pacific Region says ongoing visits undermine efforts to keep COVID-19 out of the prison.
“We’ve been questioning a lot of the decisions made on continuing on with visits when the B.C. health orders are applicable for all of the province. And we still struggle to find out the rationale for why the visits are still occurring, and why it’s only happening on the Island,” he says.
“Everybody in British Columbia hasn’t been able to visit their family, and they’ve been stuck within their own household bubble. This should be applicable to visits. I mean no visiting is no visiting we’re just trying to look out for the safety and security, and health of the institution, and everybody in there.”
It is shocking with all the BC health orders that @CSC_SCC_en still allows visitors to enter William Head Institution. The public can't visit family, but it's fine for visits to occur in a prison, risking the spread of the virus to inmates and staff? @adriandix @VanIslandHealth
— Gord Robertson (@UccoGord) January 27, 2021
Chin says the explanation from Correctional Services Canada is that transmission rates are low in the region, but he points out that visitors can come from anywhere in the province.
But the union will continue to push for visitors to be restricted.
“We have calls every week and we mention this every week. I’ve asked our national union to come in on this conversation, and hopefully we get it resolved on a national level.”
Onatrio, Quebec, and New Brunswick are the only provinces where visitors are not allowed at any federally run facilities.
While some inmates at the facility got their first dose of the COVID vaccine earlier this month, it’s not clear how many or if staff also received a shot.
NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Correctional Service of Canada for comment.