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April 1, 2020

Hon. Sylvia Jones

Ministry of the Solicitor General
18th Floor
25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto ON
M7A 1Y6

Suzanne Mcgurn
Assistant Deputy Minister
Institutional Services 091270
25 Grosvenor Ave. 17th floor
Toronto, M7A 1Y6

The Hon. Christine Elliot

Ministry of Health, Deputy Premier
5th Floor 777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON
M7A 2J3

Dear Hon. Sylvia Jones, Hon. Christine Elliot and Suzanne Mcgurn,

Re: Pandemic- COVID-19 – Preventing Correctional Institutional Outbreak

Think 2wice assists in eliminating the impact of inequality and social injustice amongst racialized young people in
the criminal justice system. We provide services and supports to Black and racialized individuals and communities,
many of whom are incarcerated and reintegrating back into the community. We have supported a large number of
incarcerated young people as well as youth and families in the community. In 14 years of operation and with
approximately 20 partners, we have provided various initiatives and supports in 8 Federal Institutions and multiple
NIA’s throughout the GTA.

I am personally writing to you as not only the Executive Director of the Think 2wice organization, but the voice of
the community. I’m writing to you with the hopes that you will have the compassion to render incarcerated
individuals the dignity and humane treatment by acting speedily concerning the dire need for prevention of the
COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario's remand population.
We urge you to prioritize the prevention and spread of this pandemic inside correctional facilities amongst staff and
inmates as directed by Public Health, The Ontario Human Rights Commission, The United Nations and WHO
(World Health Organization).

In accordance with The Human Rights Legislation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) and
International Human Rights Guidance on Health Care in Prison Settings, “prison health care should be
equivalent to that available in the community.” We are calling on you to have compassion and immediately
implement measures to protect both the physical and mental health of all the inmates who are housed in the
institutions that you oversee.

As documented in WHO’s Preparedness, Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in Prisons and Other Places of
Detention Interim Guidance, as well as in accordance with the existing Ontario Health Plan ( Canadian Pandemic
Influenza Plan, Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic, Toronto Pandemic Plan):

“Voluntary public health measures include the following individual and group behaviours:
• Hand hygiene
• Respiratory etiquette
• Environmental cleaning, especially of frequently touched surfaces such as door handles , phones,etc
• Illness isolation, and social distancing, which involves separation of people to minimize the likelihood
of transmitting influenza, as well as the closure of organizations or programs.”

After speaking with numerous staff members and inmates, we are extremely concerned that the Ministry and the
various institutions have not given inmates the appropriate products and supports to follow the above measures and
we are entrusting you to ensure that this changes immediately.

We have been made aware of the following concerns that need the ministry's immediate attention to ensure the
physical and mental safety of both inmates and correctional staff:

Section 70 of the CCRA states: “ Service shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the environment, living
and working conditions of penitentiaries are safe, healthful and free of practices that undermine the staff or
offenders' personal sense of dignity. “

As you are aware shared cells and overcrowding is a barrier for social distancing it is important that inmates have
access to cleaning supplies, soap and masks on the range and in their cells.

Although, each range has different issues and concerns, the following are the immediate concerns that have been
brought to our attention that if ignored will heighten the chances of contracting and spreading Covid-19. These
concerns are not in compliance with the guidelines that have been set out by Public Health, The Ontario Health
Plan, WHO, The Human Rights Legislation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) and
international human rights:

• From Wednesday March 16th, inmates in the South Detention Center have reported that they have been on
continuous rotating lockdowns: no access to daily showers, no telephones to call loved ones, no access to
rec or yard time. They have been confined to a cell with 2 inmates per cell.
• With the exception of wet wipes by the phone, there are no cleaning supplies on the ranges leaving inmates
unable to clean their environment
• The inmates do not have access to soap or cleaning supplies when they are locked in their cells (currently 3
days at a time) UNLESS they have the financial ability to purchase goods through the canteen.
• Hand sanitizer with alcohol is not permitted in the institutions which causes a barrier to hand hygiene
• Correctional Officers have been performing daily cell inspections, in which they move from cell to cell and
rifle through all of the inmate’s property, beds, sheets, papers etc. During routine procedures, the Officers
are not wearing gloves or masks and do not wash their hands after each inmate search and interaction. This
is against hand hygiene is leading to anxiety and possible escalation among inmates
• Face masks are not provided and if inmates make their own they are punished and face repercussions
• The South Detention Centre has only provided a paper notice of symptoms which is placed on the wall as a
form of educating about the COVID- 19 symptoms. No one has physically spoken to inmates about
symptoms as directed by Public Health (Pandemic Plan For Correctional Institutions Sect 2.2)
• The cancellation of all programming, community volunteers and excessive lockdowns causing inmates the
inability to call loved ones has led to an increase in depression, anxiety and mental health issues amongst
• 4 phones per 40 inmates per range is a germ hub
• There is a lack of transparency from the correctional institution to the inmates regarding daily updates
within the institution
• There is a lack of transparency from the Ministry to the taxpayers and the community
• Guards and nursing staff are not tested and temperatures are not monitored when entering the facility
• Guards and nursing staff are not provided with appropriate personal protective gear: such as gloves or facial
• There is a shortage of Correctional Workers due to unsafe conditions which is leading to inhumane
• After speaking with numerous inmates and their families, the wait time to see a nurse after a request has
been made is approx. 3-4 weeks on average. During a Pandemic with institutions being understaffed this is
a concern
• Inconsistency of prevention and regulations amongst facilities and ranges
• Individuals are still being detained and put in custody for non violent crimes

In addition to the lack of preventional measures being ensured within the correctional institutions, we would like to
take this opportunity to remind you that the Court of Appeal for Ontario has held that segregation for more than 15
days violates section 12 of the Charter due to its effects on prisoners’ health.

We can understand and appreciate that there is a shortage of staff however, these incarcerated individuals are human
beings and must be treated as such. As a government body, you are responsible to provide an appropriate and safe
working environment for your workers, including but not limited to all staff members of the correctional system.
Incentives should also be provided to ensure that there are adequate staff working on all ranges and within the
various institutions. If this is not possible, then inmates need to be released and the institutions must be closed.

Our recommendations for all provincial correctional institutions (in accordance with Canadian Pandemic Influenza
Plan, Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic, Toronto Pandemic Plan):

• All inmates must be provided with soap, sanitizer and cleaning supplies FREE OF CHARGE or further
delay. This must be provided for inmates both in their cells and on the range
• Cleaning supplies to be provided on each range, as well as forming a team of educated inmate cleaners to
disinfect the range when servers come out during a shortage of staff.
• Inmates provided with and permitted to wear facemasks
• Implementation of hand hygiene stations with hand sanitizers (that contain alcohol) to be locked into the
station. Placement of several per range that are filled and in good working order on a consistent basis.
• Use of internal TV channels by correctional facilitates to share and reinforce educational messaging about
the symptoms and prevention measures within an institution.
• Stocked sanitizing wipes located by each phone station.
• There needs to be a standard protocol of prevention and care by Correctional Officers across the board for
all institutions and all ranges alike.
• New admissions with no symptoms to be quarantined for 2 weeks before being placed on a range (similar to
the existing process in CSC Federal)
• Any inmate or staff who comes in contact with an individual who has tested positive to be tested and placed
on mandatory self-isolation.
• Providing periodic frontline reports throughout the day with updates of conditions to inmates
• Ministry updates and transparency to taxpayers, families and the community.
• Extra care and more frequent laundering of inmate’s clothing, as well as extra care and provisions when
handling the linen and laundry.
• Immediate notification to Next of Kin when inmates are quarantined or self isolated due to symptoms or
contact with the Covid-19 virus.
• Appropriate training for correctional staff and officers following guidelines set out by WHO, Public Health
and The Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic, Toronto Pandemic Plan): Proper education for
both guards and inmates on symptoms, hygiene and prevention as well as social distancing technique
training for guards
• Appropriate protective equipment for staff: masks, gloves, etc. All guards provided with masks and gloves.
• Daily temperature checks and kits for all staff
• Hiring of additional medical staff
• The immediate release of low risk offenders, sick and older detainees as directed by the United Nations.
• The release of particular inmates with GPS ankle monitors to house arrest
• If possible, separate the remaining inmates to a limit of 1 inmate per cell to practice effective social
• Until this Pandemic has passed, cease the detainment of all non violent offenders.
• All individuals who have been charged for a non violent crime should be given a promise to appear.
Seeking detention should be avoided as much as possible.

We must learn from both the mistakes, accomplishments and steps that are being taken towards inmates worldwide.
We understand that regulations were previously in place however priority and urgency must proceed previous
policies. As life has changed drastically for all people worldwide much less Ontarians, it must also equally change
for inmates as well. As cited above, “prison health care should be equivalent to that available in the
community.” (Human Rights Legislation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) and
International Human Rights Guidance on Health Care in Prison Settings,)

“ No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its
highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

My team is willing to assist in any way.

We trust that you will consider our concerns and recommendations speedily.


Zya Brown
Executive director

CC: Hon. Doug Downey, Renu Mandhane- OHRC Chief Commissioner