A statement was released April 22nd by the NWT government addressing questions from NWT residents about the release of inmates during the pandemic.
NWT Minister of Justice and Attorney General detailed the government’s two-part approach started with safely reducing the number of people in facilities. .
Second, to ensure procedures are in place to assess the health of those entering the correctional facilities and that they rely on the best available medical evidence and techniques.
To date, Caroline Wawzonek says the NWT’s response has been one of the most successful nationally, resulting in a reduction of approximately 22% in the number of inmates in our facilities.
She says the use of early releases or Temporary Absence is in line with existing law and policy to reintegrate those who have completed a statutory period of incarceration and who meet criteria to begin their return to the community.
What has changed is the emphasis on the availability of this process and the priority given to processing these applications.
She says offenders are not released without plans for their reintegration into the community which includes a place to reside.
Most individuals have family homes to return to and without a place to reside an offender will not be approved for an early release.
Wawzonek adds in addition to early releases, the Department of Justice is working with partners in the justice system to ensure they only send individuals to jail who need to be there to ensure public safety.
All new facility intakes are properly screened, questioned, and must be medically cleared by health staff prior to being introduced to the general population.
New inmates are not required to be tested for COVID-19 because the medical clearance process does include a temperature check and rigorous medical-specific questioning.
As well, staff and anyone else entering are also required to undergo screening before entering any facilities.