COVID-19 Planning for Federal Corrections

Classification: Unclassified

Branch / Agency: CSC

Proposed Response:


In her March 19th letter to the Prime Minister, co-signed by 15 other Senators, Senator Pate called on the government to release elderly, ill, and low-risk inmates by accelerating conditional release and allowing inmates discretionary release. She questioned the feasibility of social distancing in crowded institutions, the effectiveness of distributing hygiene information to inmates with dementia or learning disabilities, and whether lockdowns and visitor bans are not, effectively, conditions of solitary confinement.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is focusing its efforts on minimizing the risk of introducing COVID-19 to institutions. CSC has strengthened infection and prevention procedures to protect staff, offenders, and volunteers. CSC is also working with inmates to review existing treatment plans with a particular focus on older offenders and those more vulnerable do to pre-existing underlying health issues.

CSC is assessing any offenders exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Symptomatic individuals that meet public health criteria will be tested, provided with immediate clinical interventions as required, and CSC will contact local public health. CSC is collaborating with provincial and territorial public health laboratories to ensure that persons under investigation for COVID-19 are confirmed or ruled out through laboratory testing.

CSC is continuing ongoing communications with staff, inmates, and visitors on preventative measures consistent with public health guidance, including hygiene practices and increased signage.

Current Measures

CSC is focusing on critical operations. To protect staff and offenders, CSC has suspended:

Visits were suspended as of March 13, 2020, with the intent of reassessing the situation after 10 days. Other options are available to inmates and their family and friends to stay in contact such as video visitation or telephone. Understanding the impacts these measures have on the inmate population, CSC’s Commissioner authorized the waving of telephone, food and accommodation deductions for the next three months, at which time, the Service will reassess the situation.

CSC has determined critical services and staffing as the situation evolves. We are working collaboratively with our union partners to ensure that service and staff requirements are met. A “situation room” briefing occurs daily (or more often as required) with all CSC senior management, including those in the regions.

Lockdown at Bowden Institution

On March 17, 2020, CSC implemented a lockdown of the medium-security unit of Bowden Institution as a precautionary measure after some inmates showed symptoms consistent with influenza.

CSC will continue to assess and test any inmates who are showing symptoms of respiratory illness based on the recommendations of our public health partners. The institution has implemented droplet and contact precautions when a staff member is within two meters of an inmate who is under investigation for COVID-19. This includes the use of gowns, gloves, face shields and procedural masks for all staff. CSC has routine precautions in place, which include hand hygiene, cleaning, disinfecting, and proper laundry, and waste disposal processes.

Preventative Measures

In addition to working to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 in our sites, CSC is simultaneously working to ensure readiness. CSC has well established infection and prevention guidelines and seasonal flu procedures, which are the foundation of our response. In addition, some of CSC’s planning highlights include:

In support of readiness planning, CSC is actively engaging with the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health and their Special Advisory Committee. CSC is also in regular bilateral contact with Public Health Agency of Canada to review elements of our planning and receive expert feedback as required.


Prepared by: Stephan Dietz, Officer Parliamentary Relations, 613-355-1224

Approved by: Kirstan Gagnon, Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement, 613-995-6867

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