Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs presses feds to lift restriction on in contact visits for Stony Mountain inmates

By Dave Baxter

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) wants to know why inmates at Stony Mountain Institution continue to be restricted from in-contact visits with family, and they want the public to know that these restrictions continue to have overwhelmingly negative effects on Indigenous people’s well-being.

“We know that there has always been a double standard regarding how people who are incarcerated are treated, more specifically how First Nations involved in any federal institution are treated,”

Acting AMC Grand Chief Eric Redhead said in a media release.

“First Nations are highly overrepresented in correctional facilities, and often withstand the worst of such government decisions.”

Redhead’s comments come as he said Stony Mountain, a federal correctional facility about 20 kilometres north of Winnipeg, continues to allow for no in-contact visits between inmates and families, currently only allowing for non-contact visits that are conducted behind glass or some other form of physical barriers.

The regulations were originally put in place to slow the spread of COVID in the facility, but while Manitoba and many provinces across Canada have lifted COVID-19 health measures in recent months, AMC said they do not understand why they continue to restrict in-contact visits at Stony Mountain.

“The reason for suspending in-person visits, according to Correctional Service Canada is for the health and safety of staff and inmates.” Redhead said.

“However, this does not reflect the current public health orders in Manitoba. As of March 28, 2022, there were zero active cases of

COVID-19 in the Stony Mountain Institution.”

Redhead said the continued restricting of in-contact visits will continue to have negative effects on Indigenous inmates, who make up a very high percentage of the overall inmate population at Stony Mountain.

Data released in 2021 showed that as many as 70% of federal inmates incarcerated at Stony Mountain were Indigenous.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, restrictions and public health orders that required isolation from family and friends have impacted the emotional, spiritual and mental well-being of individuals,” Redhead said.

“However, for incarcerated First Nation citizens, it only escalated these challenges. The mental and emotional toll of being physically isolated from their loved ones needs to be considered, as this can lead to bigger problems in some instances.

“So much more is needed to support the well-being of First Nation citizens that are incarcerated. The only connection with the outside world for many of the inmates is that connection with their families and friends.

“To continue to prevent this contact with loved ones is inhumane and has negative impacts on one’s mental health.”

In a media release explaining current health orders at Stony Mountain, the federal government said the restrictions that remain in place are solely for the “health and safety” of inmates and employees, and that any changes or decisions moving forward will only be made after consulting with public health officials.

“All individuals entering the institution are actively screened, and decisions regarding access to the site as well as programs and services are made in consideration of public health advice,” the media release said.

“In-person visits are temporarily suspended at Stony Mountain Institution. During this time, other options are available to inmates to connect with their family and support networks.

“We are committed to reducing the risks of COVID-19 in all of our operations. We will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), local public health, as well as unions and stakeholders to take any further steps needed to ensure everyone’s safety.”

– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

 

 

 

 

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