Red Deer Remand Centre has 18 active COVID-19 cases among inmates and others behind bars are fearful they could be the next to be infected.
Alberta Health Services said on Wednesday that another six inmates who tested positive have been released with instructions on self-isolating and other health measures.
Four remand employees are also considered active cases.
The number of cases has sharply increased since mid-December when three remand employees and two inmates had tested positive.
Red Deer Remand has 72 staff overseeing up to 146 inmates.
A Red Deer lawyer who has clients in the remand centre said they feel they are being endangered.
“Inmates have no ability to comply with social distancing protocols in custody and feel they are deprived of their ability to prevent infection with COVID,” he said on Thursday.
“They are at the whim of their custodians and feel direct exposure to COVID is inevitable. They feel in constant jeopardy, unsafe and defeated.”
The lawyer points out that many of those in remand are awaiting trials for their charges that they contest and are presumed innocent unless a judge rules otherwise.
AHS said that inmates are isolated and monitored in keeping with public health protocols.
“The facility is on outbreak status. All inmate units are isolated. All movements between units has been suspended.
“Infection prevention and control measures are in place, including enhanced cleaning and (personal protective equipment) protection. Staff undergo COVID-19 screening prior to each shift.”
Inmates who have tested positive are monitored and checked at least twice a day by AHS staff.
“All report only mild symptoms, if any at all.”
Health information and mental support has also been provided to both remand centre staff and inmates.
A number of steps were taken early in the pandemic to reduce the spread of COVID. In-person visits have been put on hold at the province’s eight correction centres and remand centres.
Inmates in correctional centres have been sentenced to less than two years in prison. Those sentenced to longer terms end up in federal prisons such as Bowden, Edmonton, Grand Cache and Drumheller Institutions, Edmonton Institution for Women, the Grierson Centre and minimum-security Pê Sâkâstêw Centre, near Maskwacis.
Bowden Institution has conducted nearly 1,200 tests and identified two positive cases. One inmate has recovered and one case is active.
Drumheller inmates, where 44 inmates have tested positive, recently went on a short hunger strike to protest restrictions and lockdowns.
Calgary Remand Centre has been hit hard. In December, there were more than 260 COVID cases, including 35 staff.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association recently called on provinces to vaccinate inmates in their prison systems.
Correctional Service of Canada has started vaccinating older or medically vulnerable inmates. Some provinces have stated they plan to vaccinate inmates as part of their second phase of immunization, but Alberta is not among them.
Across Canada 3,000 inmates — 2,000 in provincial facilities — have tested positive for COVID. Four inmates have died.