Mission Institution. Kevin Mills / Mission City Record.

Mission Institution. Kevin Mills / Mission City Record.

New cases linked to site of B.C.’s largest prison COVID-19 outbreak

New outbreak could be ‘recipe for disaster’ at Mission Institution, mother of inmate warns

A new COVID-19 case has been connected to Mission Institution, the site of B.C.’s largest prison outbreak in the spring.

Families are terrified that new cases could signal another large outbreak but have been told little, Joanne Fry, the mother of one inmate said Saturday morning. She said she has confirmed at least one new case. Meanwhile, corrections officers have been told two staff members have tested positive, The News has learned.

Last spring an outbreak infected a dozen guards and more than 100 inmates – nearly half of the prisoner population. One prisoner died during that outbreak.

The first case was diagnosed on Tuesday, Nov. 11, according to Joanne Fry, whose son is a prisoner at the site and organized the Mission Prison Family Association after the outbreak. Fry said the facility went into a lockdown on Wednesday to restrict inmate movement. But she says she has been able to learn little else. With Fraser Health having yet to issue a public notice about the facility and a lack of communication from the Correctional Service of Canada, Fry says family members have been left in the dark.

“As usual, CSC and Mission Institution avoid any slight type of communication or liaison,” she said. “We have no way of getting updates, we don’t know how many have tested positive. We don’t know if they learned a thing from the last experience.”

Fry she hopes the media coverage of the last outbreak – and the lawsuit her group has filed – will prompt a better response this time at Mission.

Two staff cases were also diagnosed in September, but the virus didn’t charge through the facility as it had several months before.

But Fry says there hasn’t been any sign of better communication with families, and that the lack of information has inflicted “trauma” on people worried about their loved ones.

“We’re talking about 300 human beings here … and if you don’t give a damn about inmates, think about what all the families are going through.”

RELATED: Staff shortages plague Mission Institution following recovery from COVID-19 outbreak

RELATED: Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak declared over

RELATED: Two employees test positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution

The News has tried to contact the prison and the union that represents corrections officers, but hasn’t yet received a response. The News has also asked Fraser Health for more information on the situation at the prison.

Fry said she has been in touch with the union, and that they have also expressed concern about how the facility handled the last outbreak – and how it might handle the next one.

At the start of October, the prison was operating with just 60 per cent of its force of guards, with 21 employees self-isolating after the September COVID cases.

Derek Chin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers for the Pacific Region, said at the time that guards were feeling the strain.

“Things aren’t always great at that site when it comes to labour relations,” Chin said. “There have been a lot of officers that have been worked pretty hard, lots of hours, they feel under-appreciated.”

At that time, the CSC said staff had “shown flexibility and some have worked extended hours,” to keep the prison running.

“Mission Institution anticipates being able to return to regular activities as soon as the staff have been cleared from self isolation,” CSC said.

Now Fry worries another outbreak would be a recipe for disaster.

“You’ve got two groups of people who are both in real bad places. That is a crisis waiting to happen.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

Members of the Swansea Point Fire Department will be out with their trucks collecting food items on December 13. (CSRD photo)
Rural Shuswap fire departments gearing up for food banks

Food drives are planned in Silver Creek, White Lake and other communities

grapes.
Morning Start: Grapes light on fire in the microwave

Your morning start for Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Okanagan College students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire, both members of the Okanagan Indian Band, raised the Okanagan Nation Alliance flag on July 16, 2019,  outside the Vernon campus. (Karissa Gall photo)
First Nations reconciliation personified at Okanagan College

President Jim Hamilton’s foresight has opened post-secondary education doors for Okanagan College’s Indigenous students

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Brent Ross poses with his dog Jack who died over the weekend after asphyxiating on a ball. Ross hopes his experience serves as a cautionary tale to other dog owners. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm man warns others after dog dies from choking on a ball

Brent Ross grieving the sudden loss of Jack, a healthy, seven-year-old chocolate lab

This year’s Candlelight Vigil, United Against Violence Against Women, on Dec. 6, 2020 will not be in person at the campuses of Okanagan College due to COVID-19, but people will be able to gather online to watch a video presentation and light a candle in remembrance. (Image contributed)
Violence against women in North Okanagan-Shuswap to be remembered online

Participants in virtual vigil Dec. 6 asked to light a candle and post photo on social media

Mayor Colin Basran at the announcement of the 2021 Tim Horton’s Brier to be hosted in Kelowna on Nov. 21. (Contributed)
Tim Hortons Brier not coming to Kelowna

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Curling Canada to move to hub model, similar to the NHL playoffs

An Enderby restaurant and pub has been shut down since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub shuts down after guest reportedly tests positive for COVID-19

The Howard Johnson hotel, restaurant and pub has been closed since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29

Robert Gibson, born November 24, 2020 is in BC Children’s Hospital. Photo contributed
Princeton baby fights for his life, with parents at his side

A Go Fund Me campaign has been started to help family with expenses

Grapevine Optical was the victim of an early morning break and enter Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2020. (Crime Stoppers Okanagan / Facebook)
Collection of designer sunglasses stolen from South Okanagan eye-wear shop

Crime Stoppers is seeking the identity of two male suspects

Most Read