We are a collective of community members, prisoner advocates, and penal abolitionists who stand in solidarity with prisoners at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre (SCC), where 130 people (107 prisoners; 23 staff) or roughly 20% of the population have tested positive for COVID-19 as of November 30, 2020. We are appalled by this number and by the lack of action taken thus far to address or remedy this crisis. We call for immediate action to address the COVID crisis at SCC, and to prevent a similarly dangerous spread at other institutions in the province.

On November 11, prisoner justice advocate Cory Charles Cardinal first wrote on behalf of his fellow prisoners to the Saskatchewan Minister of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, Christine Tell, to request transparency and accountability from the Government of Saskatchewan. He noted then that prisoners at SCC are living in over-crowded conditions, with double-bunking, shared bathroom and shower facilities, and inadequate access to cleaning products and PPE, even in so-called quarantine units. Clearly, this environment does not allow for the physical distancing recommended by the Saskatchewan Health Authority to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

After receiving no response from Minister Tell, Mr. Cardinal wrote again on November 24, drawing attention to the fact that many people in jail have pre-existing health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. He closed the letter by calling for early release of nonviolent prisoners, sentenced prisoners near release, immunocompromised prisoners, and prisoners over fifty. To date, Minister Tell has not responded. With a number of other prisoners, Mr. Cardinal is currently on the fourth day of a hunger strike to draw attention to the conditions at SCC and call for immediate action.

Importantly, the current health crisis at SCC underscores the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Indigenous and other racialized communities. While Indigenous people make up roughly 5% of the overall population in Canada, they make up approximately 30% of the federal prison population. In the Prairie Provinces, the situation is even worse, with numbers closer to 60% in federal prisons and up to 85% in provincial jails like the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. Let us be clear: the government’s lack of action around COVID-19 in Saskatchewan jails specifically targets Indigenous peoples. It is Indigenous people who are getting sick; it is Indigenous people who are at risk of dying. This lack of action is a direct act of colonial violence.

In solidarity with prisoners at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, we call for:

1.     Immediate release of all prisoners possible, including but not limited to those on remand, those who are sentenced but near release, those who are immunocompromised, and those over fifty. At minimum, numbers should be reduced so that those who remain in jail are able to follow the health and safety protocols of Saskatchewan Health Authority.

2.     The provision of adequate financial and other transitional supports to ensure that prisoners who are released are provided with the resources necessary for their health and safety. In addition to adequate funding for existing supports, we call for the creation of post-release transitional supports that are not administered, surveilled, or controlled by criminal justice agents.

3.     The provision of adequate cleaning supplies and PPE, including but not limited to masks, hand sanitizer, soap, mouth wash, etc. for those who remain in jail.

4.     A public apology from the Government of Saskatchewan to prisoners and staff of the SCC for failing to prepare and respond appropriately to prevent the spread of COVID in Saskatchewan jails.

We urge members of the public to contact the Minister of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing Christine Tell to express their concerns and pressure the Government of Saskatchewan to respond immediately to the crisis. Minister Tell can be reached at minister.cp@gov.sk.ca and 306-787-0284

To add your name or the name of your organization, email statementsolidarity@gmail.com

In solidarity,

Inmates 4 Humane Conditions

Saskatchewan-Manitoba-Alberta Abolition Coalition

Free Lands Free Peoples

Indigenous Joint Action Coalition

Beyond Prison Walls Canada

Criminalization and Punishment Education Project

Jail Accountability & Information Line

Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

No More Silence

Toronto Prisoners' Rights Project

SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) YXE

Anti-Carceral Group

Wellness Within: An Organization for Health and Justice

The Centre for Access to Information and Justice (CAIJ)

Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee

Prisoner Correspondence Project

Prison Abolition Prisoner Support (PAPS)

Abolition Convergence Toronto

Department of Indigenous Studies, University of Saskatchewan

Justice Exchange

Abolition Network

Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG)

S.T.A.N.D. for Prison Justice, UBC

Shades of Colour (SOC), Edmonton

UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Regina SK

Artists for Climate & Migrant Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty

CLASSIC Law

VOLTA Collective

Education Not Incarceration Toronto (ENI)

Idle No More

Winnipeg Police Cause Harm

Sustainable Concordia

Karrie Auger

Erica Lee

Danielle Bird

Molly Swain

Nancy Van Styvendale, Associate Professor, U of Alberta

I. Abdillahi

Peter Turner

Linda Mussell

Mark Mullkoff, MSW, RSW, Abolition Convergence

Hadley Howes, P4W Memorial Collective

Betty Ann Adam

Sara Birrell

Craig Fortier, PhD, U of Waterloo

Brett Story

Robyn Maynard

Ian Liujia Tian (Ta), Ph.D. Candidate, U of Toronto

Julian Rioux

Jillian Rogin, Assistant Professor, U of Windsor

Sheena Hoszko

Dr. Uahikea Maile, Assistant Professor, U of Toronto

Trevor Goodyear, RN, MSN, MPH

Rachel Fayter, MA Community Psychology, PhD Student, U of Ottawa

Alex Da Costa, Associate Professor, U of Alberta

Adrienne Carey Hurley

Kendra Cowley

Laura Aguiar

Dr Jessica Evans, Assistant Professor, Ryerson

Cerah Dubé, MA student, University of Saskatchewan

Maxwell Folk, BA, University of Saskatchewan

Jessica Warren

Priscilla Settee, Professor, Indigenous Studies, U of Saskatchewan

Shama Rangwala, Assistant Professor, York University

Mike Gouldhawke

Kim Cahill

Nancy Poon

Tasha Hubbard, Associate Professor, U of Alberta

Zahir Kolia, Assistant Professor, Ryerson University

Dr. Justin Piché, Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa

Aloys Fleischmann

Brandie Carignan

Christine Stewart, Associate Professor, University of Alberta

Shiri Pasternak

Sue Goldstein

Keighlagh Donovan

Ashley Cardinal

William Van Arragon, Associate Professor of History, Dean of Arts, King's U

Morgan Tunzelmann, Regina, SK

Lee Ryan

Dr. WJ Arnold, Saskatoon

Erin Waugh

Alexander Falcon

Virginia Grace Facecchia

Corenda Lee Steinhauer

Omeasoo Wahpasiw, Assistant Professor, U of Prince Edward Island

Franki Harrogate, Registered Provisional Psychologist

Lisa Osler

Patricia Cameron

Julie Kaye, Sociology, USask

Alicia Clifford, PhD Student, McMaster University

Sherri Maier

Beverly Fullerton

Vicki Chartrand, Associate Professor, Bishop's University

Lauren Thompson

Adam Pottle

Joanne DiNova, Associate Professor, Ryerson University

April ChiefCalf, Saskatoon

Cindy Hanson, PhD

Mika Lafond

Sheelah McLean

Judy Cail

Sarah Warman Morton

Tonia Laird

Kelsey Timler, Research Manager & PhD Student, UBC

Wyatt Schiefelbein, PhD Student, U of Alberta

Ekaterini Barrios

Fred Norman

Lisa Vargo, Professor, University of Saskatchewan

Leah Hrycun

Dr. Lisa Guenther, Queen’s National Scholar in Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies, Queen’s University

Brynn Craffey

Fetsami Araya

Dr Andrea Redmond, Comeen, Doochary, Donegal Ireland

Caitlin Stickney

Deb Hopkins, Volunteer lawyer, CLASSIC

Kareem Ibrahim, J.D., UBC

Malachi Daw

Amanda Barlow

Rachel Lewis

James Sandaluk

Brandi Bowers

Raylene Whitford

Robbie Crosswhite

Keavy Martin, Associate Professor, University of Alberta

Kathleen James-Cavan, Associate Professor, University of Saskatchewan

Cynthia Wallace, Associate Professor, University of Saskatchewan

Sarah Nickel, Associate Professor, University of Alberta

Jessica McDonald, Postdoctoral Fellow, Simon Fraser University

Cindy Lopez

Debra Parkes, Professor and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies, UBC

Joanne Leow, Assistant Professor, USask

Scott Beaumont

Daniel Sarah Karasik

Malou Brouwer

Michelle Lee

Lynn Hutnick

Diana Da Silva, BA, MSW

Mattias Graham

Jason Demers, Assistant Professor, University of Regina

Kristie Pilling

Neil Balan

Nickita Longman

Alisha Sharma, P4W Memorial Collective

Gabrielle Ayles

Mike Wedekind

Cleo Nguyen

Leah Shoemaker, Early Childhood Professional

Liz Huntington

O. Naphtali

Paloma Hepler

Amy Engel

Courtney Hrynuik

Mairi Anderson

To add your name or the name of your organization, email statementsolidarity@gmail.com