Whitehorse Correctional Centre in Whitehorse on Feb. 2. A COVID-19 vaccine clinic was held for inmates on Jan. 21, with the doses available on a voluntary basis. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse Correctional Centre in Whitehorse on Feb. 2. A COVID-19 vaccine clinic was held for inmates on Jan. 21, with the doses available on a voluntary basis. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Less than half of inmates opt for COVID-19 vaccine at Whitehorse Correctional Centre

Pandemic protocols will remain in place, according to justice department

The Whitehorse Correctional Centre hosted its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic last month, but that doesn’t mean in-house pandemic protocols will be lifted anytime soon.

According to Andrea Monteiro, the Yukon’s director of corrections, the correctional centre was flagged for early vaccination alongside assisted living facilities. A clinic was held for inmates on Jan. 21, with the first dose available on a voluntary basis.

“I’m really excited that our counterparts in health understood the complex nature of the correctional institution and the fact that we are also a high-risk facility for the spread of COVID,” Monteiro told the News.

Only 14 out of 43 inmates chose to receive the vaccination, according to Fiona Azizaj, justice spokesperson.

The correctional centre was allotted two clinic days for the first and second dose of the vaccine, but Monteiro said there aren’t additional clinic dates scheduled to cover those who become incarcerated after Jan. 21.

“There’s little influence that … corrections has on that, and so, we fall into the queue when the Chief Medical Officer of Health determines that they’re doing a clinic in our facility,” Monteiro said.

Azizaj told the News that the department is still working out logistics in the case that inmates are released before receiving their second dose.

The correctional centre has implemented several COVID-19 safety protocols in the past year. Personal visits were suspended on March 24, 2020, and “secure visits” were introduced on May 12.

Those secure visits allow inmates to receive two visitors at a time, with a physical barrier between them to prevent virus transmission. To balance the visiting limitations, the correctional centre provides 20 minutes of free phone calls to inmates each day.

In November, the News reported that a new mother incarcerated at the correctional centre was unable to hold her infant for nearly eight months due to the restricted visits.

Monteiro said that no adjustments nor exceptions have been made for contact visits, though she was unable to comment on individual cases.

Last March, correctional centre staff were advised to avoid social gatherings, and non-essential staff training was suspended. Additional cleaning procedures were put into place and court appearances were facilitated by video.

The correctional centre’s last COVID-19 update was posted last April, and Monteiro said very little has changed in pandemic protocols since then.

In April, the centre promised a detailed review of individuals on remand and on intermittent sentences, particularly for those vulnerable to COVID-19. An assessment took place to determine whether inmates could be released on an unescorted temporary absence without compromising the safety of the community.

Monteiro said that the correctional centre is “significantly under-capacity” due to alternative measures taken for custodial placements. She explained that pandemic protocols will continue at the correctional centre for the foreseeable future, regardless of the number of inmates who have been vaccinated.

“It’s a bit of a risk mitigation strategy for the institution, so we’re evaluating that on a day-to-day basis, to see whether additional protocols and measures need to be put in place,” Monteiro said.

Masks became mandatory in the correctional centre when the second wave of the virus hit, and an additional cleaner was hired for the facility.

“Other than that, not much has changed (since the start of the pandemic); we’d already taken quite a proactive approach at mitigating risks within the correctional institution that we didn’t have to adjust our operations too drastically,” Monteiro said.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

CoronavirusWhitehorse Correctional CentreYukon health and social servicesYukon justice department

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read