Nunavut’s justice system has set free 23 inmates over the past few weeks due to the potential effects Covid-19 could have on crowded facilities.
Twelve inmates received their early release on April 1. Five of them were serving time at Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC)/Makigiarvik in Iqaluit; four were at the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility; while the Nunavut Women’s Correctional Centre in Iqaluit, the Uttaqivik Community Residential Centre — a halfway house in Iqaluit — and the Kugluktuk Ilavut Centre each housed one of the released inmates.
BCC still housed 43 inmates as of Wednesday.
In addition, Nunavut courts held bail reviews on March 27 and granted 11 inmates release from BCC/Makigiarvik. They were waiting for their court cases to proceed, a process known as remand.
The Department of Justice refused to comment on the nature of the charges laid and offences committed by the released inmates.
“However, I can assure you that victim services have been involved and have made every effort to contact community members who may be impacted as a result of any release,” stated Jessica Young, director of policy and planning with the Department of Justice.
The corrections division continues to take in individuals accused of certain crimes, Young noted.
A number of precautionary steps have been taken to lower risk in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the department.
All visitation and non-essential traffic at the penal facilities has been suspended.
New inmates are being isolated for 14 days and nurses screen them for symptoms of the virus.
Hand-sanitizing stations have been installed in high-traffic areas and cleaning of the institutions happens more frequently.
Staff have access to response/containment kits that contain gloves, masks, face shields, gowns and instructions for proper use.
Food and supply orders have been bulked up to ensure facilities are well stocked should an outbreak occur.