Ailing federal prisoner to be released after heading to court over COVID-19 fear

Derrick Snow, 53, is serving a sentence at Ontario’s Bath Institution, near Kingston

An inmate with serious health problems will be let out of federal custody after he went to court over fear of contracting COVID-19 behind bars — a move his lawyer hopes will open the door for other vulnerable prisoners.

The Correctional Service of Canada has granted Derrick Snow a temporary absence, to begin next Tuesday, as pressure mounts for officials to release aging and frail prisoners who are more likely to suffer badly from the virus.

“I just got off the phone with Mr. Snow and he is profoundly relieved by this decision,” his lawyer, Paul Champ, said Thursday.

Snow, 53, is serving a sentence at Ontario’s Bath Institution, near Kingston, for breaking-and-entering and theft. He has diabetes and pulmonary disease and was recently diagnosed with malignant sarcoma.

Snow had submitted an application April 2 to the prison warden for an unescorted temporary absence and, due to the urgency of the situation, demanded a decision by April 10, but he did not get an answer.

He then asked the Federal Court to allow him an absence from the prison until his statutory release date in late July or until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, whichever is sooner.

“Prisons are environments that are especially prone to the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and where social distancing and other appropriate preventive measures are not reasonably possible,” said Snow’s submission to the court.

It said Snow feared his underlying medical conditions put him at heightened risk to become infected with COVID-19 and die if he were to remain in custody while his full arguments played out in court.

A federal inmate at Mission Institution in Abbotsford died from an apparent complication related to the novel coronavirus, the prison service said Thursday.

The Correctional Service gave Snow permission to live with his sister in London, Ont., where he will receive treatment for cancer and his other ailments until his July release date.

It noted the absence of violence in his criminal history and the “appropriate supervision plan” in place, including special conditions and a curfew.

The prison service stressed it was approving Snow’s absence despite taking “extraordinary measures” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in federal institutions.

“This decision took into consideration the health conditions of Mr. Snow combined with the potential for having a negative health outcome should he contract this virus.”

As a result of the decision, a Federal Court hearing slated for Friday will not take place, Champ said.

Federal lawyers said earlier this week the circumstances were not sufficiently urgent to require an imminent court hearing.

The prison service’s decision is clear that low-risk federal inmates who are medically vulnerable can be released under the temporary absence provisions in existing legislation, Champ said.

“We are hopeful that (the Correctional Service of Canada) will now consider using this measure more broadly to facilitate the expedited release of other medically vulnerable prisoners,” he said.

“Hopefully, the next vulnerable inmate with a low-risk profile who applies won’t have to fight for three weeks and take CSC to court.”

Releasing larger numbers of low risk inmates will not only protect those individuals, but it will make the institutions safer for staff and the communities in which they live, Champ added.

Late last month, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair asked the prison service and the national parole board to look at early release for some offenders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lumby Fire Department upgrades vehicle fleet

Out is the old bush truck, complete with homemade solutions, and in is a new vehicle

Tagging Suicide Hill in Vernon in lieu of grad party?

City councillor pitches idea to revive old tradition amid COVID-19 pandemic

Motorcycle vs. vehicle on Vernon highway

Fire crews, ambulance and police on scene at 32nd Street and 43rd Avenue intersection

North Okanagan campers trashing rules

Campers still pitching tents, and leaving garbage, despite sites not being open until June 1

North Westside residents shocked at fire chief’s suspension

Communities association president said they don’t know why the suspension happened

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

36 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario, Quebec care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in long-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

Horoscopes for the week of May 26

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

Camper explodes near Princeton along Similkameen River

One man was sent to Princeton Hospital May 23 after a camper… Continue reading

Suspected social media accounts of accused Kelowna hamster torturer emerge

Leighton Allen Labute, 20, is facing six charges related to his alleged torture of a hamster

Most Read