The reduction in the prison population of Canada recorded last April because of the measures taken to combat the pandemic of COVID-19 is ” unprecedented “, according to Statistics Canada.
The number of people incarcerated in the country has increased from 37 976 in February 2020 to almost 32 000 in April 2020, a decrease of approximately 6000 people, or 16 %.
This decrease is observed both in the federal prison — sentences of two years or more — that in the provincial prisons.
Such a fluctuation has never been observed before, one can read in a Statistics Canada report released Wednesday.
In Quebec, 4381 people were behind bars in February, compared to 3742 in April, which represents a decrease of 15 %.
Nova Scotia is the province where the difference was most marked : in April, the prisons were 41 % less people incarcerated than in February.
The reduction in the number of persons held in correctional institutions is considered as a pre-emptive measure to reduce the risk to public health, according to the report.
At the height of the pandemic, in the spring, the justice system and the correctional system have been able to put some prisoners out on bail, release of early individuals deemed to be very likely to re-offend, extend the period of appeals of parole, or even give a “medical leave” to some of the inmates.
Statistics Canada does not specify which measures have been most often used.
Dated 6th August, 1496 screening tests had been carried out with prisoners. About a quarter of the results were positive.
All of the people affected have recovered with the exception of one, specific the government agency.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, two prisoners died of the disease.