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Rights advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 in Canadian prisons and jails

The Bowden Institution medium security facility near Bowden, Alta., Thursday, March 19, 2020. Government medical professionals say Canada's jails and prisons don't meet with physical distancing guidelines for COVID-19 and they want as many inmates as possible to be released. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Rights advocates and researchers are sounding an alarm about COVID-19 cases in Canadian prisons and jails.

They say the numbers in recent weeks have surpassed the total during the first nine months of the pandemic.

The researchers say that from March to the end of November, there were 1,864 reported novel coronavirus cases among prisoners and jail staff in Canada.

Since December 1st, there have been over 1,962 cases.

Prisoners have accounted for about 80 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

The Prison Pandemic Partnership is calling on provincial, territorial and federal governments to take bolder steps to protect people in correctional institutions.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office says since the spread of COVID-19, the federal Parole Board has streamlined a number of its policies.

It says in addition, the Correctional Service has put in place extensive infection prevention and control measures.