OPSEU calling on province to discuss COVID-19 impact on jails
LONDON, ONT. -- OPSEU president Warren 'Smokey' Thomas is calling on provincial government officials and the chief medical officer of health to address COVID19 in Ontario jails.
"They say it’s not a pandemic in the institutions yet," says Thomas of corrections managers. "And we don't want it to be."
Thomas wants Dr. David Williams to meet with corrections managers and force them to follow the guidelines and rules set out by premier Doug Ford.
"They need to stop transfers, stop visits, do extra cleaning, screen at the door, and take temperatures going in," says Thomas.
"If they don't pass the initial screening, they don't go in."
Lawyer Kevin Egan told CTV London last week he had major concerns for those inside Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC).
"This place is a Petri dish, if COVID19 gets into EMDC its going to spread like wild fire," says Egan.
Egan has represented a number of the families of inmates who have died inside the maximum-security jail in London.
"The place is filthy to begin with. It's vastly overcrowded with people jammed into cells. There are two or three inmates in cells designed for one person. It’s a recipe for disaster."
The ministry has taken a few steps to this point. Solicitor general Sylvia Jones announced Tuesday those serving weekend sentences don't have to report, but some transfers are happening in terms of releases.
"I want to assure you that we have put a number of measures in places already," says Jones. "We'll continue to assess the situation to see what procedures we can put in place to protect individuals."
Thomas says that's a start, but much more needs to be done. He claims corrections managers have a 'sticking their head in the sand attitude.'
"We had one senior manager on conference call say this (COVID-19) is like the flu and there is nothing to worry about," says Thomas. "This came from a senior official, and others are saying 'we'll agree to disagree and we'll do what we want to do.’"
He then challenged those officials to get on the front lines and work on the range for a week.
"You get your ass in there and work on it," he added. "If you think it’s so safe, put your health and life on the line like you're asking your employees to and get your ass in there and do something."