Global News has learned 21 inmates serving intermittent sentences in Manitoba have been granted temporary absences, meaning they don’t need to return on weekends to serve their time.
The province says it’s to allow for physical distancing and reduce the number of people entering the facilities, in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.
However, it adds individuals are expected to stay in their homes for the entire weekend.
It adds plans are in place at each facility to isolate and care for people should it be required, and decisions on when to test someone for COVID-19 are made by health-care providers at the centre.
Bail hearings and custody issues are being fast-tracked to reduce remand counts, while transfers to federal corrections and the release of inmates who have served their sentences continue as normal.
“There’s been a flurry of changes on the part of the court to make sure that individuals are released where possible,” says Chris Gamby, with Criminal Defence Lawyers of Manitoba.
“My colleagues and myself have noticed that with the Crowns, where they may at one point have been opposed to releasing an inmate, they have now perhaps consented – providing the defence is able to provide a bail plan that makes logical sense to them.”
Gamby says they’ve also noticed more leniency on the part of the courts when dealing with non-violent offenders.
“For example, if an individual has already spent 90 days in custody, and the Crown might be asking for 150 days, the defence around 100, the judge may say ‘OK, that’s sufficient at this point, let’s get this non-violent individual out of here … so that the institution is safer for everyone involved,” Gamby says.
The province also says all individuals entering custody are now being isolated for up to 14 days, and all in-person visits, group activities, staff training, and inmate programs have also been suspended.
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