An update on COVID-19 in prisons

An update on COVID-19 in prisons

We thought you might like an update on what is happening in Queensland prisons with COVID-19.

As you may have seen in the media, just as Omicron has spread through the community, many Queensland prisons now have COVID-19 cases.

As of today, there are 461 prisoners who are being treated as positive cases across the State. These prisoners are being cared for by Queensland Health, and a number of prisoners have already recovered since the commencement of the Omicron wave.

Only a small number of prisoners have required hospital treatment for COVID-19.

This is at least partly to do with the fact that a high percentage of prisoners have been fully vaccinated. Just like in the community, vaccination is very good protection against serious illness requiring hospitalisation.

You may be aware that there are health clinics in every prison staffed by Queensland Health doctors and nurses. This means that prisoners can be closely monitored for illness and sent to hospital should this be necessary.

Even though many prisons are dealing with COVID cases, Queensland Health is still regularly providing vaccinations and boosters, so if you have a loved one in prison who isn’t vaccinated yet, ask them to talk to an officer or health staff about getting vaccinated.

What’s happening in prisons right now?

The management of each unit in a centre is being approached depending on whether there are COVID-19 positive prisoners in them.

This means that in the one centre, there could be different restrictions for different units. In some units, prisoners may be restricted to the unit and in others some prisoners maybe in cell isolation, while units with no COVID cases may be unlocked, but with internal movements restricted to reduce the risk of transmission.

For this reason, activities, programs and industries are heavily restricted, with essential workers being unlocked to undertake their work in the kitchens, laundries and other places.

Just like in the community, people who test positive to COVID-19 are isolated until their symptoms resolve and are no longer considered infectious on the advice of Queensland Health. Prisoners who are close contacts of positive cases are also isolated to reduce the transmission risk.

When will visits start again?

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about when visits will start again. This is a difficult question to answer, as it depends on many different factors.

At this point in the pandemic, we’ve had to prioritise essential operational activities within centres, so visits have been cancelled. This allows centres to adjust their activities to care for prisoners who are in isolation.

As this phase of the pandemic passes, and we see a reduction in prisoners who need to be isolated and officers off duty, we’ll look at restarting visits as soon as Queensland Health tells us it is safe.

This may happen at different times for different centres, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases amongst prisoners, how many officers are unable to work, and what is happening in the local community.

All of these restrictions have been put in place in consultation with Queensland Health. As soon as we are able to safely do so, these restrictions will be eased.

Why are Virtual Personal Visits cancelled?

Whenever possible we are facilitating phone calls, emails, and Virtual Personal Visits.

There may be some disruption to virtual visits if Queensland Health advise the prisoner movements within prisons should be restricted for a time to reduce spread of COVID-19 within the centre.

All restrictions are reviewed on a daily basis, which is why sometimes virtual visits are cancelled at short notice.

We take the safety and welfare of our staff and prisoners seriously and together with Queensland Health, we are doing everything we can to minimise and reduce the spread of COVID in the correctional system.