The union representing correctional workers in Alberta says the government pondering possibly moving young offenders from Edmonton to Calgary during the coronavirus pandemic is dangerous, and “there’s really no reason for it.”
According to the AUPE, members working at the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre approached them this week, saying they’d heard “the move was possibly imminent.”
“The reasoning behind it was they were going to move the young offenders down to Calgary and possibly put people that were not complying with the chief medical officer’s orders on isolation into the centre until their quarantine was over,” union vice-president Susan Slade said.
While no official decision has been made, Slade said even considering it “doesn’t make sense.”
“There’s approximately 18 to 20 young offenders in this facility and this facility can house about 300 people,” she said.
“You can isolate the children into that area and also have isolation for those that are not complying with the order.
“There’s no reason why you would be moving them down to Calgary, risking them possibly being infected as well considering Calgary has a way higher rate of COVID-19 than Edmonton does.”
Slade also raised concerns with the fact that the union, which which has about 70 members working at the EYOC, wasn’t consulted as part of the process.
She said members are frustrated by the way they heard about the possible move, and also disappointed to hear the youth they’ve developed relationships, and have invested in trying to help, may be moved.
“Moving these children down to Calgary is not a good move. You’re taking them away from, not only the people that they’re familiar with, but you’re also taking them away from their families as well,” Slade said.
“There really is no reason for it. There is ways of being able to put people in that centre without them having to be around the kids.”
In an emailed statement, press secretary for the department of justice, Jonah Mozeson, said the EYOC is not closing, but officials are exploring options for the possibility that people refusing quarantine may need to be detained.
“As Alberta begins to reopen, we must consider the potential need for a controlled facility if a high-risk individual refuses to quarantine in their private residence or a government-provided facility such as a hotel room,” Mozeson said.
“For example, an international traveller entering Alberta who refuses to self-isolate as required and willingly puts Albertans’ health at risk could be temporarily housed at a secure facility for his or her required 14-day self-isolation period.
“Such a measure would only be used as an extraordinary last resort. But the government must prepare for contingencies.”
Mozeson said if the government does need to take that route, it “will not house high-risk individuals under quarantine in the same facility with young offenders whose health may compromised.”
He said any and all involved parties would be notified if such a decision is made.
According to the union, the AUPE is continuing to reach out to the government for to talk about the situation.
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