Inmate death at Bowden Institution linked to COVID-19 outbreak

An inmate at the Bowden Institution died Tuesday after experiencing complications related to COVID-19, the Correctional Service of Canada confirmed in a news release. 

The institution has been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak that has seen 37 positive inmate cases as of Wednesday, 13 of which are active. The death of the inmate represents the sixth attributed to COVID-19 among federally sentenced inmates.

“The inmate’s next of kin have been notified of their death. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) extends its condolences to the family,” the CSC said in a statement Wednesday.

“As in all cases involving the death of an inmate, CSC has notified the coroner who will review the circumstances of the death.”

Inmate concerns

According to the CSC, the inmate population of the institution is approximately 725 inmates. As of May 2, 73 per cent of the population have chosen to be vaccinated, the CSC said.

Across federal institutions, the CSC said it mandated masks for inmates and staff, implemented physical distancing and introduced active health screening of those who enter the institutions.

Lyle Vance, an inmate at the facility, spoke to CBC News prior to the inmate’s death. He said he was stressed and anxious about the outbreak.

“What happens if we get sick and we can’t breathe? Are they not going to be able to open our cells at night time, until the morning?” he said. “It’s scary.”

Vance said he had concerns surrounding the use of personal protective equipment among staff members at the facility, adding he had formally raised those concerns.

The Bowden Institution is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, with 37 positive inmate cases linked to the facility as of Wednesday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The CSC said it was aware that concerns had been raised and was currently investigating, but said information about employee misconduct was not publicly available for privacy reasons.

“CSC enforces its infection prevention and control policies, and all allegations of inappropriate or inadequate use of personal protective equipment are thoroughly investigated, and appropriate action is taken,” the federal agency said in a statement.

“CSC continues to educate staff and offenders on strategies to mitigate and prevent the spread of illness, including the need to follow public health guidance, through ongoing communications.”

A report from Canada’s Correctional Investigator released in February 2021 found that about 10 per cent of Canada’s federal prison population had been infected with COVID-19, compared to two per cent of the general population.

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