Community and families of inmates in Saskatchewan jails are concerned about the well-being of incarcerated men, especially those diagnosed with COVID-19, so they gathered outside the Regina Correctional Centre and online on Jan. 5 to protest.
Julie Paul, from Ochapowace First Nation, is concerned her son River Peters, 26, is not getting proper medical care in the correctional centre after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month.
Since then, over a week later, he’s called his mother once.
“That’s why I started the protest, because I found out he was sick. I didn’t hear from him for seven days,” she said.
Paul says he told her he was left with only a blanket and a book in his cell for over 23 hours, and that they were getting only two meals a day.
Paul worries that’s not enough food to stay healthy.
“I am waiting on my son to call to see if they got their canteen, which is to help them get through their COVID time,” she said.
“All of them need extra supplements, even if they don’t have COVID, so their immune system is built up.”
The Saskatchewan Department of Corrections declined an interview request from APTN News.
But they did send this statement instead.
“Corrections has taken numerous measures, in consultation with public health officials, to protect both staff and offenders,” said the province.
“This includes…quarantining new admissions for 14 days and providing a specific COVID-19 medical screening – isolation and quarantine protocols for those who exhibit symptoms.”
Supporters joined Paul’s demonstration in person and on social media. She says she has another protest planned.
“The emotional part of it (is) where they can’t even contact their family members. That’s just where I draw the line, because if you can’t even hear your own mother or someone who loves you and you’re restricted from calling them that’s just in humane.”
Regarding the lack of phone calls the province said the following.
“In light of COVID-19, Corrections is also providing offenders with two additional 10-minute free calls to ensure they can stay in contact with family and friends,” said the statement.
“Inmates are also able to contact chaplains and elders by phone in lieu of face-to-face meetings. These phone calls are free, and are considered privileged phone calls.”
But Paul says she’s only heard from her son once.
She now says, since she held the protest, that her son is receiving dry noodles and a drink box in addition to the two meals a day.
She plans to keep advocating to ensure her son and other inmates are treated well.