Inmates ‘sitting ducks’ as COVID-19 rages through Kingston, Ont., prison, advocate says

Inmates at the Joyceville Institution in northeast Kingston, Ont., are calling on Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and the prison’s warden to provide more information about the COVID-19 outbreak raging there.

As of Saturday, 95 inmates at the medium-security prison had tested positive for COVID-19, seven more than on Thursday. Four staff members have also tested positive, according to CSC’s website[1].

The prison is built for about 450 inmates.

“Whether it’s good or bad, we just want information to get to us,” reads a news release sent on behalf of the inmates, issued by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project and the Toronto Prisoners’ Right Project.

“Right now, there’s no message going. All we hear is what’s on the six o’clock news and what’s constantly repeated over and over on the news loop.”

Six of the inmates who have tested positive were recently moved from Joyceville to the Collins Bay Institution, also in Kingston, according to the CSC.

Three inmates who later tested positive were transported to Warkworth Institution in Brighton, Ont, while one was taken to the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont.

WATCH | Pleas for action to protect inmates from COVID-19 outbreaks:

COVID-19 outbreaks in jails and prisons across the country have prompted pleas from inmates and advocates for more to be done to protect prisoners and staff. 1:45

Along with better communication, the Joyceville inmates also want additional sanitation and cleaning supplies and more personal protective equipment, said Justin Piché, an associate professor in the University of Ottawa’s criminology department. 

“They’re sitting ducks with nowhere to go,” said Piché, who has been in direct contact with inmates and family members and helped write the press release on the inmates’ behalf.

According to that release, some prisoners have N95 masks, while others don’t. Guards have face shields, but the inmates say they haven’t been provided with any. 

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