Statement by Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé on COVID-19 and Ontario’s correctional facilities

March 26, 2020

26 March 2020

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today released the following statement regarding the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the province’s correctional facilities.

(TORONTO – March 26, 2020) Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today released the following statement regarding the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the province’s correctional facilities:

As Ontario’s government and public sector bodies take action to slow the spread of COVID-19, I am particularly concerned about the steps taken to protect some of those in our society who are the most vulnerable to the scourge of this pandemic. I am referring to people detained in Ontario’s correctional facilities who face greater risks, both in terms of an enhanced risk of exposure to the virus as well as potentially receiving less than adequate medical care. The risk of contagion also extends to the frontline correctional staff who manage and operate the province’s correctional facilities.

I recognize that the Ministry of the Solicitor General is making changes aimed at protecting frontline workers and inmates, such as suspending personal visits, authorizing senior correctional officials to issue temporary absences for longer than the current 72-hour maximum, and not requiring inmates serving intermittent sentences to report to a correctional facility every weekend. I am also aware that the Ministry has continued to look for and consider solutions and other abatements to reduce the level of risk to health as it responds to this ever-changing environment.

As this medical crisis unfolds, we will remain vigilant.

While our Office’s toll-free number is not operational, and mail (including the confidential blue letters inmates are normally able to send to us) cannot be received and processed while our office is closed and staff are working from home, email can be sent to our general contact email and faxes can be sent to 416-586-3485.

We are actively monitoring media and social media to keep abreast of the concerns and issues raised in the public domain. Many of these reflect the concerns we are hearing about from family and friends who are contacting us on behalf of the front line Correctional staff and inmates. We wish to thank those who have contacted us on behalf of their loved ones and we want to recognize the extra steps that some facilities have taken to facilitate access to my office for the inmates as well as its staff.

Senior management and Investigators from my Office are in regular contact and communication with senior Ministry officials and management and staff at various institutions. Regular conversations are occurring, and information is being shared in order to promote proactive responses to situations as they arise.

As we navigate these challenging and ever-changing circumstances, my Office is committed to working collaboratively with the Ministry of the Solicitor General to identify and address inmate health and safety issues in a timely manner.

Paul Dubé
Ombudsman of Ontario