COVID-19: Modified routines for health purposes in prison
- Kate Mitchell
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In addition to placing prisoners in medical isolation, wardens in federal institutions also have the authority to implement a modified routine for health purposes. Modified routines are implemented to restrict movement within part of or an entire prison to contain the spread of COVID-19 and manage it.
The decision to implement a modified routine is to be reviewed at least weekly to ensure it is for the shortest amount of time required.
If a modified routine is authorized, the decision is to be communicated to the prisoners. Prisoners are to be informed of their rights, including a) to contact legal counsel, b) to contact organizations such as the Office of the Correctional Investigator, Citizen Advisory Committee, John Howard Society, etc., and c) to submit complaints and/or grievances.
Prisoners are supposed to be seen daily by staff to give staff an opportunity to identify any needs and make referrals to services like health care. Prisoners are still entitled to access health care during a modified routine
Reasonable efforts are supposed to be made to provide prisoners with time out of their cells to attend to personal care (shower, etc.), enjoy yard time, access telephones, and interact with others.
If a modified routine is in place, prisoners are supposed to keep 2 metres of space between themselves and staff. When this is not possible, personal protective equipment is supposed to be used.
This is what is supposed to happen, but this is not always what does in fact happen in prisons. While prisoners have the right to file complaints and grievances, it can take a long time to get a response. If the prison’s policies are not being followed, prisoners should speak with a lawyer to see what their options are.