Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Lesley Russell, Adjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney

This week revealed cases of coronavirus infection in a Victorian prison guard and a prisoner in quarantine on remand. Now six Victorian prisons are in lockdown.

This is not the first time there has been a positive COVID-19 test for prison personnel in Australia; three justice health staff in New South Wales tested positive earlier this year.

Public health and prison officials look fearfully at the toll coronavirus has taken on incarcerated populations around the world. They recognise Australian prisons are also at high risk for coronavirus outbreaks.

Many have pushed for proactive measures to prevent this. Now the adequacy of the implemented measures is being tested.

Read more: Coronavirus: why prison conditions can be a perfect storm for spreading disease

Why are prisons and prisoners at increased risk?

Prisons and prisoners are at increased risk of coronavirus for many reasons, including:

  • Prisoners and staff (who come and go into the community) are in close contact. So it is easy to see how transmission could occur between the community and prison populations, and back again.

  • Overcrowding means prisoners cannot self-isolate.

  • Hygiene standards are poor and there have been reported shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for both staff and prisoners. National Cabinet agreed in May supplying PPE to corrections facilities should be a priority “if COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the sector”, so it is not clear if this has happened.

  • Prisoners have higher rates of social disadvantage and many are medically vulnerable due to lifelong difficulties accessing health care; mental health and substance abuse problems; violence; and unhealthy prison conditions.

  • Indigenous Australians are significantly over-represented in the prison population. While coronavirus has been kept out of Indigenous communities, there is every reason to believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, like other First Nations people, are at increased risk from coronavirus infection and death.

  • There is significant churn in the justice system as people are taken into custody, bailed, jailed and released.

  • There is little data to assess the adequacy of health-care facilities in prisons. But prisoners have an inherent health-care disadvantage as they cannot make their own decisions about their health care, or access Medicare and medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

What’s happening in prisons during the pandemic?

There is little information about what is happening to protect Australian prisons from the pandemic.

One media report in March outlined some measures individual states and territories have taken. All jurisdictions have limited prison visits and most, including Victoria, have instituted a 14-day quarantine for new prisoners.

There has been some testing in some prisons, but the extent is not known. A media report in May stated Victoria would increase testing in prisons after three inmates returned inconclusive tests that were later found to be negative.

Why prisons in Victoria are locked up and locked down Ravenhall Correctional Centre in Melbourne is one of six prisons in Victoria in lockdown this week. James Ross/AAP Image

Should we be releasing prisoners?

Australian governments have faced renewed calls to urgently release some prisoners into the community. This would cut the number of people held in prisons and other places of detention, particularly Indigenous people and others at increased risk.

Governments in some states, have responded by introducing legislation to allow for this, although we don’t yet know the extent of any releases.

Read more: For First Nations people, coronavirus has meant fewer services, separated families and over-policing: new report

However, release into the community is only a safe option if people have appropriate housing and support services. There are concerns that releases — which are based on risk to the community, the safety of victims and access to accommodation — will be culturally biased against those most likely to benefit such as Indigenous prisoners.

Many Indigenous communities are closed to visitors and no-one can return until after a 14-day isolation period. This presents difficulties for those prisoners who do not have accommodation options outside their communities.

We need to avoid what’s happening overseas

The clear lessons from the second outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria and from the disastrous situation of rising coronavirus cases in prisons in the United States is that swift, concerted actions are needed to curtail spread of the virus.

The only way to know what is happening is rapid testing of prisoners and staff, whether or not they show symptoms, and effective isolation of anyone possibly infected.

At the same time, the human rights of this vulnerable population must be protected and their physical and mental health needs addressed. Already most prisoners are unable to have visitors and in Victoria they are unable to receive needed supplies such as toiletries, books, food and clothing.

Families are reportedly “sick with worry” they will not be notified if a family member falls ill.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that during a global pandemic, the consequences of neglecting the prison population was “potentially catastrophic”.

Read more: Coronavirus: a history of pandemics in prison

In Australia, Hannah McGlade, academic, human rights lawyer and a member of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, said:

Prison is the most unsafe place that Aboriginal people can be in a pandemic.

The Victorian government is already on notice. A recent decision of the Victorian supreme court found it had breached its duty to take reasonable care for the health of people behind bars during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is imperative that in the days ahead coronavirus infections in prisons and other correctional facilities are accepted as a public health problem for everyone.

Authors: Lesley Russell, Adjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney

Read more https://theconversation.com/why-prisons-in-victoria-are-locked-up-and-locked-down-143178

Writers Wanted

How To Find The Right Emergency Plumber Lismore

arrow_forward

Delivery rider deaths highlight need to make streets safer for everyone

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion