Lhe Union of Peace Officers in Correctional Services of Quebec (SAPSCQ) reported on Friday that two of its members in Trois-Rivières had received a positive result in their screening test. However, on Saturday morning, the union confirmed that this is now the case for a third employee. An inmate also contracted COVID-19 recently, according to the Department of Public Security.
A total of 14 employees were preventively removed from their workplace, indicates the SAPSCQ.
The CIUSSS de la Mauricie et du Center-du-Québec affirmed on Friday that these cases could not be considered as an outbreak, since the transmission had not occurred inside the walls of the prison, according to epidemiological investigations carried out by public health. On Saturday, the CIUSSS still held the same speech.
However, according to the president of the SAPSCQ, Mathieu Lavoie, if the transmission did not take place between the walls of the Trois-Rivières prison, he believes it likely that it still took place in a work context. A correctional officer allegedly accompanied an inmate to hospital. This detainee was subsequently found to be a carrier of COVID-19.
“We do not yet have all the details, but we know that the person was negative when entering the hospital, but positive when leaving. An agent accompanied him, as that is sometimes part of our tasks, and he too tested positive afterwards, ”he explains.
Rules difficult to enforce
The situation in Trois-Rivières, but also in all detention facilities in the province, is worrying in the eyes of Mr. Lavoie. He finds that Public Health underestimates the risks of the spread of COVID-19 in detention facilities.
“There are activities that are maintained, but with a distance. But to make people respect that in prison, we don’t have a lot of levers. Even if they are asked to respect the 2 m, that they are told to wear the face covering, they still exchange cigarettes in the yard. These are people who did not respect the law on the outside, so many will not respect them on the inside, ”he believes.
According to him, it would be more judicious to prohibit access to training rooms and common places which promote promiscuity.
“We play with fire. It is necessary to limit the contacts between the incarcerated people, to better supervise the access to the outside courtyard. It is necessary to limit their movements to prevent contamination between the sectors, ”he pleads.
The risk of transmission is also high between correctional service officers, since they must work in confined spaces, which do not promote distancing, warns Mr. Lavoie.
He also deplores the fact that the way of managing the health crisis varies from one CIUSSS or CISSS to another. He further asserts that his union’s appeals to the National Directorate of Public Health to tighten up measures in detention facilities go unheeded.