Transfer of all Edmonton centre occupants will increase risk to youths
EDMONTON – The Government of Alberta is planning to transfer all occupants of the Edmonton Young Offender Centre (EYOC) to Calgary, a move that increases risks to them and workers.
“We haven’t been told why this is happening, but we’re hearing some strange ideas that seem to make no sense,” says Susan Slade, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents more than 95,000 workers, including about 70 at the EYOC.
“We’re hearing that the centre may be used to house members of the public with COVID-19 infections who violate orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health to such a point that the government thinks they need to be secured. We’re also hearing that the Edmonton Centre may be use to house people in the correctional system who are infected, but you don’t need a facility that big,” she says.
“This decision has been made without consultation with front-line workers. We fear that the government is either unaware or unconcerned about the increased risk to young persons or workers,” she says.
About 20 occupants aged between 12 and 17 will be moved to Calgary, meaning they are further away from family members and support systems. It will also break important relationships they have formed with Edmonton staff who are helping to put them on the path to a more productive life. Some of them have been convicted, but some are on remand.
When these young persons are released, they must be released into the custody of family or guardians. Because many of the Edmonton centre occupants are from northern Alberta, this will create unnecessary hardship for these families.
“The young persons are being moved from Edmonton, which has a low rate of infection, to Calgary, which is a COVID-19 hotbed. They will be moving from single-occupancy cells to double-occupancy cells, which also increases risks. Transportation will also bring increased exposure,” says Slade.
“There’s also the added risk that comes from moving people from the COVID-19 hotspot of Calgary back to their home communities,” she says.
“These are vulnerable young Albertans. The youth justice system was created to help them turn their lives around. It’s wrong to put them at extra risk. This is going to cause unnecessary stress for these youngsters and that often leads to behavioural problems, which opens them and staff to greater risk,” she says.
“The EYOC can accommodate hundreds of people. There is capacity to house people in isolation without moving the current youths. There’s no need to move anyone.”
Susan Slade is available for interviews.
For more information, please contact:
Terry Inigo-Jones, AUPE communications, 403-831-4394