The recent COVID-19 outbreak among staff at Mission Institution has led the guards union to denounce the prison’s management and Correctional Service Canada (CSC).
In a Nov. 19 news release, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) said they “deplore” the actions of both CSC and Employment and Social Development Canada for a “lack of transparency and seriousness” during their investigations into the union’s safety complaints at the prison.
“There are currently two employees who have COVID-19. This leads to several tracing investigations and therefore the preventive isolation of several staff members,” says Derek Chin, president of the pacific region for the union.
“Mission experienced the largest outbreak of any penitentiary in the country this spring. We cannot understand why management will not take every precaution possible to prevent a further outbreak.”
Chin said CSC has not hired a professional firm, as they did in the spring, to properly disinfect the prison and carry out investigations into their complaints.
He said that without pressure from UCCO, the results from the investigation would never have been shared.
“The investigations carried out are a textbook case of what not to do. The investigations were rigged from the beginning,” Chin said. “We are appalled that ESDC rendered its decision on such a vital subject in less than 3 hours after hearing from officers.”
CSC confirmed that two more staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 17, but no inmates had been infected.
CSC said “extensive infection prevention and control measures” had been carried out, such as mandatory mask wearing for inmates and staff, physical distancing measures, screening of anyone entering our institutions, increased and enhanced disinfection at sites, and training to conduct contact tracing and testing.
At the start of October, the prison was operating with just 60 per cent of its force of guards, with 21 employees self-isolating after previous COVID cases among staff in September.
“No one wants to relive the nightmare of last spring,” Chin said. “The employer must be serious this time around in its management of the crisis given the significant increase of community transmission of COVID-19 experienced in the Fraser Valley.”