April 9, 2020
Following revelations of a serious Covid-19 outbreak at Mission’s federal prison, BC’s Ecosocialists are calling on the BC government to release and house the inmates in its correctional facilities. “The fact is that provincial jails, prisons and remand centres were never designed with Covid-19 in mind. There is no amount of reorganization or retrofitting that is going to keep air from recirculating in a confined area, in which people are close together. And this is not just an issue for inmates. Our government is placing its employees at serious risk, having them working in an environment that experts are describing as a petri dish for Corona virus,” stated Stuart Parker, a party spokesperson, who was incarcerated in pretrial custody on two occasions in the 1990s.
“We really need to look at the balance of risk, here,” Parker continued, “people who have received either no sentence or a sentence of less than two years are people we are already planning to release back into society. So let’s try to keep them, and our guard population, alive and healthy until their sentence is up.”
Party Calls for Expedited Protection Orders, Hotel Appropriation for Release
Because disturbingly short sentences are often given for domestic violence, gender-based violence and crimes against children, the party favours an expedited review of each prisoner subject to possible release to ensure the safety of those against whom they may have committed crimes. “We need the Attorney-General to work with child and family services to ensure that new protection orders are issued so that inmates released early face immediate sanction and possible reincarceration if they endanger their former victims. Prison is bad. Covid hothouses are bad. But so is a general amnesty that does not take victims of violence into account,” Parker added.
The party also backs the use of emergency powers to make AirBnB and licit hotel and motel space available to unhoused people, including the prisoners it proposes releasing. “The proposal, here, is to get people out of an environment that fosters Covid transmission and into one that does not. But that doesn’t meant we don’t do sensible things like ensuring that people released are housed and we know where they are.”