Ontario Stepping Up Measures to Limit the Spread of COVID-19 in Correctional System

Published on March 20, 2020

NEWS

March 20, 2020

TORONTO — Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, issued the following statement regarding regulatory changes to temporary absences and parole at Ontario's adult correctional facilities as a further precautionary response to COVID-19:

"As Ontario continues to act to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are making further changes to protect our frontline workers and our health care system from the burden an outbreak in our correctional system could cause.

On March 13, we announced measures to protect Ontario's adult correctional facilities from COVID-19 by granting intermittent inmates, who serve time on the weekends, temporary absences from custody, and temporarily halting personal visits. Intermittent inmates have already been deemed low-risk by the courts and remain in the community Monday to Friday to live and work.

Building on these changes, Ontario is implementing amendments to Regulation 778 under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act to allow senior corrections officials to expand the use of temporary absences and for the Ontario Parole Board to use alternatives to in-person meetings.

Going forward, correctional services will have the option to issue temporary absences beyond the current 72-hour maximum. This means those serving intermittent sentences, who have been granted a temporary absence will not have to report to a correctional facility every weekend, which will avoid cycling individuals back and forth between the community and a correctional facility. 

In addition, the longer-term temporary absences will allow for early release of those inmates who are near the end of their sentence. To ensure public safety, inmates would be carefully assessed to ensure they are a low risk to reoffend. Those inmates who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as violent crimes or crimes involving guns, would not be considered for early release.

A second regulatory amendment will allow the Ontario Parole Board to conduct hearings by electronic or written means, rather than solely in-person, providing alternate options for hearings.

We continue to evaluate all options to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 within our correctional system. These regulatory amendments will help us preserve the integrity of our health care system, protect our frontline workers and help keep our communities safe."