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COVID-19: How to stay in touch with federal prisoners

In response to outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons, Correctional Service Canada has suspended in-person visits in many areas. That said, friends and family still have other ways of contacting prisoners:

  • Mail. As a precaution, mail is generally being quarantined for 72 hours before being delivered to prisoners. This means it may take longer than unusual for mail to reach prisoners. Before including anything in an envelope (other than a letter), check with Correctional Service Canada whether it is permitted. Sending in unauthorized items can be a criminal offence.
  • Telephone. Prisoners cannot receive calls, only make calls. If there is an emergency, a Correctional Manager may be willing to take a message to pass along to the prisoner. Prisoners may have more limited phone time due to modified routines and restrictions imposed on them. They should still have some time each day to make calls though. Prisoners must pay for calls, and numbers must be added on the prisoner’s phone card before the prisoner can call them (this can take several days to several weeks). Note that three way calls are not permitted. If the institution discovered a three way call, the call will be disconnected and the prisoner could be institutionally charged.
  • Video visits. Prisoners can apply for video visits, which can take up to two weeks to approve. These are a maximum of 50 minutes, and prisoners may have a very limited number of these (given the demand for this service right now). You will need to have internet, a private location with no unapproved individuals present, and a piece of identification to show to staff.

Be aware that staff are entitled to monitor all mail, calls, and video visits. If a prisoner or visitor violates a rule, there could be consequences. These consequences could include criminal charges, institutional charges for the prisoner, removal of a contact from a prisoner’s phone card, difficulties with future visits (including obtaining authorization for Private Family Visits), etc.

Past performance is not indicative of future results, and outcomes will vary according to the facts of individual cases. This site is intended for information purposes only. None of the information on this site should be considered “legal advice.” Information on this website (including blog posts and answers to frequently asked questions) is the opinion of the author only and is not warrantied or guaranteed to be an exhaustive, definitive, or accurate statement of the law. The proper interpretation and application of the law must always be done on a case specific basis; therefore, you should not rely on the general information on this site as a substitute for proper legal research or the advice of a licenced lawyer.