The union that speaks for jail workers says that COVID-19 is now in all of the Saskatchewan correctional centres.
Saskatoon is the hardest hit, with 76 inmates and 15 staff testing positive for the virus as of Friday. That number is expected to rise as more test results come in, said Glenn Billingsley, a labour relations officer with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU).
Other positive cases include two staff at the Regina jail, one at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, one at the Paul Dojack Centre, one at Kilburn Hall and one at a Prince Albert youth residence, he said.
The Saskatoon jail is not accepting new inmates. People arrested in Saskatoon and remanded will be sent to a jail in another city.
Billingsley said he isn’t sure how long this will last.
“That direction could change on any given notice depending on the staff infection rate, as well as the inmate infection rate at all of those centres,” he said.
Staff at provincial court in Saskatoon on Friday worked with the new reality.
Four of the five men arrested in the city Thursday were released this morning — one with an explicit warning from prosecutor Aaron Martens.
The man is facing an assault allegation along with six other charges.
“This is a consent release but only on the narrowest of margins,” Martens said.
“This is because of COVID-19 at the jail.”
On Thursday, SGEU proposed that the government give jail staff “optional accommodation” so that workers need not return to their households between shifts.
It believes this could help prevent transmission of the virus into the community.
The government said no.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the government’s reaction,” Billingsley said.
“Transmission of the virus causes more stresses and more economic hardship on this province and the economy than simply supplying optional accommodation for our correction workers.”