Lawyer Ian McTavish (Contributed)

Salmon Arm lawyer describes inmate’s positive COVID-19 test as ‘a huge problem’

Virus in the confined space of Okanagan Correctional Centre may be difficult to contain

A Salmon Arm lawyer views an inmate testing positive for COVID-19 at Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver as “a huge problem.”

Prior to pandemic warnings, defence lawyer Ian McTavish would go to OCC once a month to see clients. He emphasizes he is not an expert in the virus nor is he an expert in prison management. However, he sees controlling the spread of the virus in the corrections centre as a tough task.

“That’s the worry, they’re human beings and they’re kept in close proximity to each other so it’s a huge problem.”

He can see the virus potentially “spreading like wildfire.”

He estimates there are 30 people, maybe more, on a unit, and they all hang out together. He thinks each cell is double-bunked.

According to the company that built the facility, the prison is approximately 29,000 square metres in total area, with 11 living units and 378 cells.

Read more: Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19.

Read more: Should non-violent offenders be released from prison to avoid COVID-19 spread?

McTavish said he’s sure the prison will be locked down. Many of the people detained there have not had a trial so have not been proven guilty, but they’ll be locked down, unable to be with other inmates.

“That’s going to be tough. Very tough on the staff too, I can’t even imagine it… I don’t envy anybody having to deal with all of this…”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said April 2 that measures have been in place at correctional facilities for weeks, including restricting visitors, doing health checks and ensuring rapid access to testing should people become ill because of the communal setting. New people entering such facilities are also being isolated for 14 days.

The person who became ill at OCC was isolated and the people who were in his pod are being monitored. She said closed environments such as the corrections centre are challenging but Interior Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority are working on it.

McTavish noted the pandemic has already been a big strain on the justice system, with the courts shut down. He said Supreme and Provincial Court cases that were supposed to be seen in March are being adjourned to June.

“Everything’s backlogged. It’s going to be backlogged for months afterwards. It’s not really in the public interest, but there’s no alternative to it.”

– with files from Kelowna Capital News



marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusLaw & JusticeSalmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Perfect storm’ causes influx of black widows in the Okanagan

The region’s only venomous spider has come out in full force this year

Okanagan College expands ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ to all students this fall

Wellness Wednesday workshops are designed to be psycho-educational

AlleyCats Okanagan: Pet of the week

Mort is available through AlleyCats Alliance

Penticton film production seeking extras

Change of Pace is set to begin filming in Penticton Sept. 28

Veintimilla to run as Liberal candidate

The Oliver councillor will run for MLA of the Boundary-Similkameen riding

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Attorney General defends Kelowna Mountie involved in rough arrest

Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak in June of this year

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Suspected human remains found in burned out vehicle on OKIB land

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP hand over investigation to Major Crimes

Kamloops RCMP search for armed robber of pizza restaurant

The incident unfolded on Monday evening at the Sahali Domino’s store

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Trial underway for Kamloops man charged with kidnapping

Michael Mathieson is charged with armed robbery, unlawful confinement and kidnapping

Most Read