Liberal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is asking Canadian prisons to release some inmates early from federal prisons.

The request is being made in order to stop the spread of the virus within prisons, where social distancing is virtually impossible to achieve. 

“Minister Blair has asked both the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Chair of the Parole Board of Canada to determine whether there are measures that could be taken to facilitate early release for certain offenders,” said Public Safety Canada spokesperson Mary-Liz Power. 

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has doubted the effectiveness that releasing some inmates would have in limiting the impact of the virus on Canada’s prison system. 

“The focus must be on changing routines in our institutions to respect social distancing and self-isolation directives to every extent possible,” the union told CTV News.

“Canada is in crisis, and its citizens are already dealing with a potentially deadly threat. It is irresponsible to introduce further threats into our communities.”

In Richmond Hill, Ontario a man who was released from police custody due to coronavirus measures went on to allegedly assault a police officer only a few hours after being freed. 

22-year old Chibudem Anthony Okeke has since been charged with attempted murder and failing to comply with recognizance after allegedly attacking and trying to disarm Const. Andrew Varao of his firearm. 

Last week, the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were detected at a prison in Quebec’s maximum-security Port-Cartier Institution, according to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). 

Two inmates tested positive for the virus and the prison has since been placed into lockdown.

“These two inmates are being medically isolated from the general inmate population and the institution has been on lockdown as a precautionary measure,” claimed a news release by the CSC. 

Nine employees at the federal prison were put into self-isolation before the virus was first detected among the inmate population. 

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