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Province alters quarantine plan for young offenders

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>The province will begin transferring youth arrestees from the Winnipeg Remand Centre to the Manitoba Youth Centre.</p>


The province will begin transferring youth arrestees from the Winnipeg Remand Centre to the Manitoba Youth Centre.

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THE province has backtracked on a decision to quarantine accused young offenders at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Instead, youth arrestees will be transferred to the Manitoba Youth Centre, where they will serve a period of segregation in separate cottages, according to a memo sent Thursday to prosecutors and defence lawyers.

"It’s my understanding youth are being moved back, as we speak," said lawyer Hillarie Tasche, who had raised concerns in court about housing children in the same jail facility as adults.

"From everything I heard, crowns, judges, everyone was on board for this change. I think we just want to make sure that we do it right."

The province introduced the measure earlier this month, in an effort to control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Under the plan, newly arrested youths and adults were to be quarantined for up to 14 days at the remand centre before being transferred to another facility.

"My biggest concern was that young people’s well-being — be it mental, physical, or emotional health — would not be adequately protected at the remand centre," Tasche said.

"We know that the use of segregation is incredibly detrimental to the mental health of young people. Studies have shown that they are at a higher (risk) of attempting suicide or having long-term depression as a result of being in segregation."

A spokesperson for the province declined comment Thursday.

While still concerned what impact quarantine will have on her clients, Tasche said spending that time at the Manitoba Youth Centre will be better for their overall health.

"I’m concerned about segregation wherever they are… but we’ve been told that (MYC) won’t use the observation units, that they will have a cottage, (youths will) have staff at MYC who know them and care for them," Tasche said.

"Moving to MYC will allow us more access to know what is happening on the ground and to be able to speak to our clients and know that they are OK."

Occupancy numbers at the province’s seven custodial facilities are all below capacity as inmates have won early release or bail to reduce the spread of COVID-19 inside jail walls.

Tasche estimated there were five to 10 youths in quarantine at the remand centre Thursday. At the same time, just 24 youths were being housed at MYC, which has beds for 153.

"So there’s lots of space for them to do this right, and I am confident they will," Tasche said.


Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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