COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Information for stakeholders

Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) continues to respond to successful suppression and identification of COVID-19 cases in the Queensland community, by ensuring staged COVID-19 restrictions are in place as required for correctional centres and community corrections offices, under our COVID-19 Hotspot Response Planning tools. This approach allows us to quickly and proportionally respond to any community outbreaks by identifying the different restrictions which apply at different stages, and this may vary across different centres and community corrections offices in accordance with health advice.

Following the notification of a positive case for a youth worker at Brisbane Youth Detention Centre at Wacol on Wednesday 19 August 2020, positive cases associated with the Queensland Corrective Services Academy at Wacol were identified from Wednesday 26 August 2020, including two officers from Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre who attended training at the Academy.

Extensive contact tracing, quarantine and COVID-19 testing was undertaken in response, including for officers and prisoners from Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. This approach successfully contained the outbreak and all officers and prisoners quarantined and tested returned negative results.

After the successful response to this challenging outbreak of COVID-19 in South East Queensland which directly impacted on correctional facilities, and in line with the easing of restrictions in the community, QCS has now also eased restrictions. All custodial and community corrections operations have reverted to Stage 1 restrictions from 28 September 2020. This has enabled the return to COVID-safe business-as-usual services in our facilities.

As always, stage changes for QCS are undertaken on the advice of Queensland’s Chief Health Officer and in coordination with the State Health Emergency Coordination Centre.

Under Stage 1, a significant easing of restrictions has occurred, while QCS continues to have in place appropriate measures to keep COVID-19 out of our correctional system. On the advice of the Chief Health Officer, this now includes the wearing of masks across all stages where social distancing is not possible.

Custodial Operations

On the advice from the Chief Health Officer from 28 September 2020, with no new reported positive COVID-19 cases reported in the community, all correctional centres across Queensland will revert to Stage 1 restrictions. These include:

  • Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre
  • Brisbane Correctional Centre
  • Borallon Training and Correctional Centre
  • Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre
  • Capricornia Correctional Centre
  • Helana Jones Centre
  • Lotus Glen Correctional Centre
  • Maryborough Correctional Centre
  • Numinbah Correctional Centre
  • Palen Creek Correctional Centre
  • Southern Queensland Correctional Centre
  • Townsville Correctional Centre
  • Wolston Correctional Centre
  • Woodford Correctional Centre

Official, cultural and legal visits have recommenced at all correctional centres. Face to face personal visits have also recommenced and visits for one person per prisoner for an hour can now be booked.

Everyone entering a correctional centre will continue to undergo health screening and temperature checks. For the safety of our officers and the prisoners in our care, please do not come for a visit if you are unwell or showing any COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are minor (please self-isolate and get tested immediately).

All correctional centres have a COVIDSafe plan in place, including the requirement for social distancing, hygiene and other fundamental measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Community Corrections

On the advice from the Chief Health Officer from 28 September 2020, all Community Corrections offices across Queensland have reverted to Stage 1 restrictions.

All Community Corrections offices have a COVIDSafe plan in place, including the requirement for social distancing, hygiene and other fundamental measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

QCS operations and COVID-19

The global effort to combat COVID-19 is ongoing and many nations are feeling the effects of this scourge. These are difficult and challenging times for all of us.

As you know, the governments in our country started their planning early to address this pandemic. Similarly, Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) planned for this and our strategies have been multifaceted, thoughtful and decisive.

Our top priorities are the safety of all personnel, including officers and the people in our care, and the safe and secure operation of the correctional system.

QCS’s fundamental strategy has been to keep COVID-19 out of our prisons, and keep all people in our system safe, well, and free from harm. If COVID-19 enters a centre, we must employ all possible strategies to isolate, contain and suppress it to the degree that is possible in partnership with our colleagues at Queensland Health.

Under the guidance of Queensland Health and the Chief Health Officer with the easing of restrictions in the community, QCS commenced an initial staged easing of restrictions across correctional centres and community corrections offices from 12 June.

With the recent positive cases in the South East Queensland, QCS staged restrictions were activated in accordance to advice from the Chief Health Officer. Our QCS COVID-19 Hotspot Response Plans allow for a staged and proportionate response, enabling different levels restriction in place in different location as required to protect the health of all.

To limit the risk of a prisoner with COVID-19 being received into a prison, all receptions are subject to health screening on admission. Prisoners entering or already within the correctional system who are suspected of having COVID-19 are provided testing and isolated pending the results of that testing and for 14 days if they have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case. Prisoners who are confirmed to have COVID-19 will be isolated and treated in hospital by Queensland Health and not returned to the correctional centre until cleared of infection. Such departures from our usual procedures, remain necessary to protect the health of every person in the correctional system including our staff, health workers and the prisoners themselves.

We are also committed to ensuring community safety, and as such, if a prisoner is showing symptoms at any time, including the period prior to discharge, Queensland Health will conduct health assessment of the prisoner, including provision of testing. Discharged prisoners are provided with information about COVID-19 and what to do if they develop symptoms.

Steps have also been taken by Community Corrections offices located throughout the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Officers have implemented temperature screening and social distancing and adopted alternative mechanisms to face to face meetings to manage offenders where appropriate. We work with external providers to maintain intervention and program delivery whenever possible. Our teams continue to work closely with Queensland Police Service, Queensland Health and local stakeholders to ensure community safety.

We are working effectively with the judiciary, and engaging with stakeholders, particularly the union, as well as prisoners, offenders and their family.

This may remain a rapidly changing environment for some time, and we recognise it is incredibly important to be communicating with people to keep them appraised of the situation.

This page will be regularly updated with current information to assist all our partners and the community at large to understand how QCS is working to keep everyone as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further details are available in our Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have a question that is not answered on the website, please direct your further inquiries in first instance to the QCS COVID-19 State Corrections Operations Centre, on QCSCOVID-19StateOperationsCentre@Corrections.qld.gov.au

Podcast: Ensuring oversight during COVID-19 restrictions, Chief Superintendent Sally-Ann Gray, Chief Inspector, 4 June 2020

Community Corrections

How are Community Corrections managing offenders during COVID-19?

Updated 22 August 2020

Community Corrections are committed to reducing the risk of COVID-19 to employees and people under community supervision. Steps have been taken to comply with public health directions, including to implement standard precautions of social distancing, careful cleaning of surfaces, hand hygiene practices, and coughing and sneezing etiquette.

A four-stage plan is guiding Community Corrections response to the prevention of COVID-19 spread and management of offenders. As the risk of COVID-19 increases or decreases over time, Community Corrections may move up or down through the stages, and offices across the state may be in different stages depending on health advice.

Updated 28 September 2020

From 12 June 2020 Community Corrections statewide initially moved to Stage 1 restrictions.

With the move to Stage 1, Community Corrections saw a gradual increase in usual functions, including face to face contact. Steps were put in place at Community Corrections offices throughout the state to ensure social distancing wherever possible and otherwise make changes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Offices have adopted alternative mechanisms to in person meetings to manage offenders where appropriate, including through phone reporting.  Community Corrections is working with relevant providers to maintain program delivery where possible whilst meeting social distancing requirements. Our teams continue to work closely with Queensland Police Service and local stakeholders to ensure community safety.

On 21 September 2020 on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 restrictions were in place for various Community Corrections offices across Queensland. The length of time such restrictions were in place in particular locations varied depending on health advice.

On advice of the Chief Health Officer, from 28 September 2020 all Community Corrections office statewide have reverted again to Stage 1 restrictions.

QCS Community Corrections Stage Restriction Timeline (28 Sep 2020)

What stage is Community Corrections currently implementing?

Updated 28 September 2020

From 12 June 2020 Community Corrections statewide initially moved to Stage 1 restrictions.

With the move to Stage 1, Community Corrections saw a gradual increase in usual functions, including face to face contact. Steps were put in place at Community Corrections offices throughout the state to ensure social distancing wherever possible and otherwise make changes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Offices have adopted alternative mechanisms to in person meetings to manage offenders where appropriate, including through phone reporting.  Community Corrections is working with relevant providers to maintain program delivery where possible whilst meeting social distancing requirements. Our teams continue to work closely with Queensland Police Service and local stakeholders to ensure community safety.

On 21 September 2020 on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 restrictions were in place for various Community Corrections offices across Queensland. The length of time such restrictions were in place in particular locations varied depending on health advice.

On advice of the Chief Health Officer, from 28 September 2020 all Community Corrections office statewide have reverted again to Stage 1 restrictions.

QCS Community Corrections Stage Restriction Timeline (28 Sep 2020)

Correctional centres

How is QCS managing correctional centres during COVID-19?

Updated 4 September 2020

Steps have been taken to ensure compliance with public health directions in all correctional centres, including to implement standard precautions of social distancing, careful cleaning of surfaces, hand hygiene practices, and coughing and sneezing etiquette.

QCS is guided by a four-stage plan to stop COVID-19 entering prisons and manage its potential spread, developed in conjunction with Corrective Services Administrators Council (CSAC) and implemented in conjunction with Queensland Health advice and the support of the Chief Health Officer. As the risk of COVID-19 increases or decreases over time, centres may move up or down through the stages, and centres across the state may be in different stages depending on health advice.

Stage 1.  Excludes visitors to QCS prisons if they present with one or more of the risk factors, including flu like symptoms, have recently returned from overseas and/or been in contact with someone recently returned from overseas.

Stage 2.  Restricts all personal visits. All other visits conducted in accordance with advice from the Chief Health Officer regarding social distancing with no physical contact.

Stage 3. Only essential QCS, Queensland Health and business critical visitors (with Commissioner approval required) will be granted access to correctional centres.

Stage 4. Is a full or partial lock down of prisons. This involves all prisoners being secured in their cells and movement within the facilities restricted.

What stage are correctional centres currently in?

Updated 28 September 2020

Stage 1 restrictions were initially activated on 6 March 2020.

On 26 March 2020, the Commissioner made declarations under sections 263(2) and 268(4) of the Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld), to strengthen restrictions in accordance with advice from Queensland Health and with the support of the Chief Health Officer.

Since this time the need for such declarations and the stage of restrictions applying to correctional centres has been regularly reviewed as required to protect the health of all those in our care, officers and the community while the pandemic continues. The stage of restrictions applying to centres has been escalated or relaxed in accordance with health advice about level of risk relating to community transmission.

After the initial period of restrictions and with the easing of restrictions within the Queensland community all centres returned to Stage 2 restrictions on 12 June 2020, meaning professional visitors resumed access to correctional centres across the state, for professional, official and other business purposes including:

  • external program and intervention providers
  • accredited, government, casual site, professional and commercial visitors
  • religious visitors, elders, respected persons and spiritual healers.

From 10 July 2020 restrictions eased further, and personal visits recommenced across all centres with appropriate COVID-SAFE plans in place.

Due to the identification of three positive cases of COVID-19 in the Southern Metro area of Brisbane on 29 July 2020, changes were made to the COVID-19 restrictions for QCS. After Queensland Health had worked to understand the extent of cases and undertook contact tracing, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, South East correctional centres returned to Stage 2 restrictions. On 12 August 2020 South East Queensland correctional centres returned to Stage 1 restrictions, based on health advice.

On 22 August 2020, due to the identification of positive cases of COVID-19 in the South-East Queensland changes were again made to the COVID-19 restrictions in place for QCS. On the advice of the Chief Health Officer, correctional centres from Maryborough Correctional Centre South to the South-East corner returned to Stage 3 restrictions. After a positive COVID-19 case was then identified in an officer at the QCS Academy on 26 August 2020, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer Stage 4 restrictions were activated for correctional centres from Capricornia Correctional Centre South to the South-East corner, while contact tracing and testing took place.

On the advice of the Chief Health Officer, on 30 August 2020 Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, Borallon Training Centre, Wolston Correctional Centre and Woodford Correctional Centre remained in Stage 4 restrictions, while other centres reverted to Stage 3, and in the case of Capricornia Correctional Centre to Stage 1 restrictions.

On 4 September 2020,, changes were made to restrictions across centres based on levels of community transmission and the level of risk. On 21 September 2020 on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, restrictions were lifted across various correctional centres to Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions with the exceptions of Arthur Gorrie, Brisbane, Borallon Traning, Brisbane Women’s, Southern Queensland and Wolston Correctional Centres remaining in Stage 3 restrictions to ensure no further COVID-19 cases arises within the South-East region.

On the advice from the Chief Health Officer from 28 September 2020, with no new positive COVID-19 cases reported, all correctional centres statewide reverted to Stage 1 restrictions:

  • Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre
  • Brisbane Correctional Centre
  • Borallon Training and Correctional Centre
  • Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre
  • Capricornia Correctional Centre
  • Helana Jones Centre
  • Lotus Glen Correctional Centre
  • Maryborough Correctional Centre
  • Numinbah Correctional Centre
  • Palen Creek Correctional Centre
  • Southern Queensland Correctional Centre
  • Townsville Correctional Centre
  • Wolston Correctional Centre
  • Woodford Correctional Centre

QCS Custodial Stage Restriction Timeline (28 Sep 2020)

What health checks are there for QCS and Queensland Health staff, professional, official and other business visitors prior to entering a correctional centre?

Updated 3 August 2020

Coinciding with the initial introduction of Stage 2 restrictions and to help keep COVID-19 out of prisons, QCS put in place health and temperature checks for all staff and other people before they enter facilities across the state. Any person with a temperature over 38 degrees or with cold or flu-like systems is not be permitted access to the centre and is referred to seek medical advice. These measures will remain in place until recovery from COVID-19 is considered complete.

What precautions are in place at point of entry for prisoners?

Updated 12 August 2020

QCS continues to limit the risk of a prisoner with COVID-19 being received into the secure custody environment, by ensuring health and temperature checks are conducted at reception. If the prisoner is suspected of having COVID-19, they are provided testing and isolated pending the results of that testing. Prisoners will be isolated for 14 days if they have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case. Prisoners who are confirmed to have COVID-19 are to be isolated and treated according to Queensland Health advice. Subject to the capacity of the health system, confirmed cases will be managed in a health setting to reduce the risk of transmission.

From Stage 2 of restrictions, further steps put in place to help stop COVID-19 entering Queensland prisons include isolating all new receptions for a 14-day period.

To support health and wellbeing of any prisoner subject to isolation, to the greatest extent possible each prisoner subject to isolation must also have:

  • access to confidential medical assessment and treatment including specialist mental health services
  • access to engagement with the offender development team to monitor and support their mental health
  • engagement with unit and activities officers to provide activities that may be undertaken whilst isolated (such as books, drawing and letter writing)
  • access to blue letter mail processes and unmonitored calls with legal representatives
  • access to facilitated telephone calls, and/or videoconference connection with family where possible.

Once any 14-day isolation period is completed, the prisoner will be relocated to the general prisoner population following a final temperature and health check by Queensland Health staff.

The process is uniform across Queensland for consistency across the department with no discretionary authority applied.

QCS and Queensland Health are reviewing the policy regularly to ensure it remains appropriate in the circumstances.

How will an isolated prisoner be managed?

Updated 12 June 2020

Prisoners in isolation are to be in single cell accommodation insofar as practicable for the protection of the broader prisoner and staff population. Isolated prisoners are not required to restart a 14-day isolation period if they are required to leave their cell during the isolation period.

What other restrictions on prisoner movements are in place?

Updated 3 August 2020

To minimise the risks associated with COVID-19, other steps have been taken to minimise the movement of prisoners between centres. For example, when the relevant COVID-19 restrictions are in place, prisoner movements between centres will only occur when essential for placement, and prisoner requested moves are restricted.

How are vulnerable prisoners managed?

Updated 3 August 2020

A vulnerable prisoner is a prisoner who falls within the category of people identified in the statement published by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) on 30 March 2020 as being at, or likely to be at, a higher risk or serious illness if infected with COVID-19. The people identified by the AHPPC as vulnerable are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older, with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • people 70 years and older
  • people with compromised immune systems.

Chronic medical conditions, and conditions which give rise to immunosuppression, are listed and updated by the Department of Health.

On 8 April 2020, QCS further strengthened its commitment to COVID-19 precautionary measures by ensuring QCS works even more collaboratively with Queensland Health to identify and respond to vulnerable prisoners at each correctional centre.

All those confirmed by Queensland Health as vulnerable prisoners are to be medically segregated to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19, so they may be accommodated in dedicated single cell accommodation and/or unit to reduce the level of close contact with the broader prisoner population. These prisoners will not be isolated in their cells.

QCS is ensuring access to health and mental health services, activities, and contact with family, is appropriately maintained. QCS considers the risks and needs of each prisoner carefully, including any special needs on account of their cultural background and any disability they may have. These considerations remain standard QCS practice in responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19 in the correctional environment.

From 10 July 2020, prisoners subject to management as a vulnerable prisoner may receive personal visits, administered in accordance with the relevant QCS COVID-SAFE Plans. Similarly, there is no restriction to access to professional visits in accordance with the relevant COVID-SAFE Plans.

How is QCS managing the transfer of vulnerable prisoners?

Updated 8 May 2020

If a vulnerable prisoner is required to transfer to another secure corrective services facility, the receiving centre will be notified of the prisoner’s vulnerable status as part of the prisoner transfer authority.

If the prisoner is released to parole or a community-based order, Community Corrections will be notified of their vulnerable status to inform decision making on supervision and reporting requirements.

Will there be legislation changes to release prisoners?

Updated 24 April 2020

QCS is committed to ensuring the health and safety of staff, prisoners and offenders and is taking necessary precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Queensland’s corrective services facilities. We also must protect the safety of the community. With these priorities, consideration is not currently being given to introducing legislation to alter or extend existing prisoner release mechanisms in Queensland, with several options already available for prisoners under the Corrective Services Act 2006 (the Act).

What is QCS doing to ensure the community is safe from COVID-19?

Updated 3 August 2020

QCS is committed to ensuring community safety, and as such any prisoner with symptoms approaching a known discharge will receive a health and temperature check conducted by Queensland Health and will be assisted in accordance with health advice.

When restrictions were in place to protect Queensland’s Indigenous communities, QCS also put in place extra precautions for the return of those in our care to these locations to ensure compliance with the restrictions and the safety of all.

As of 3 July 2020, the Chief Health Officer removed restrictions for 16 of the 20 Indigenous communities in Queensland under the Restricted Access to Remote Communities Direction. As of 10 July 2020, the Chief Health Officer’s Direction was revoked entirely for the remaining four communities, therefore re-opening them. For this reason, while standard COVID-19 precautions continue to be taken, there are currently no other public health requirements for COVID-19 testing of adults exiting custody or quarantine, for example, before individuals return to any Indigenous community.

When will personal visits with prisoners re-commence?

Updated 28 September 2020

Queensland Corrective Services’ priority is to keep COVID-19 out of our prisons and to keep staff and all people in our care safe. This is why a staged approach is being undertaken, restricting and reintroducing visits as required according to the level of risk. After the easing of restrictions in the community and the successful resumption of professional visits in correctional centres, personal visits are then recommenced in the following stage of easing of restrictions for correctional centres.

Changes to the way personal visits occur have been made according to health advice and COVID-SAFE plans put in place. Visits do not occur exactly as they did in the past.

Virtual personal visits (VPV) are now available for family and friends of prisoners to ensure people in our care can stay in touch with their loved one and help protect the health of all.

Due to high demand, there may be a delay in booking availability for VPV. We are working to make sure everyone can virtually visit their loved ones as soon as possible. For more information and to book, contact your correctional centre.

Queensland Corrective Services has also recently added a new service to allow family and friends to email prisoners located in Queensland correctional centres.

When correctional centres are in Stage 2 and Stage 3 restrictions, face to face personal visits are suspended, with video-conferencing and other alternative measures encouraged so that prisoners can keep in touch with loved ones.

On advice from the Chief Health Officer, from 28 September 2020, all correctional centres across Queensland have revert to Stage 1 restrictions. Personal visits recommence in all correctional centres. This means that personal visits with one person per prisoner for an hour can be booked. Everyone entering a correctional centre will undergo health screening and temperature checks. Visitors who are showing signs of illness, or who have visited or travelled through declared hotspots in the past 14 days will not be admitted to our centres.

Access to legal representation

I need to get my client to sign a s651 application for their sentence to proceed. Can QCS assist with this?

Updated 24 April 2020

Yes, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Queensland Corrective Services will assist legal representatives with the completion of section 651 applications. If you have an application that needs to be signed by a prisoner, please send it to the sentence management email address at the correctional centre where the prisoner is accommodated. Sentence Management staff will coordinate the completion of these applications (including the completion of the Oaths Act declaration) and return by email to legal representatives.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact via email at covid19specops@corrections.qld.gov.au

How is QCS supporting prisoners and their legal representatives on bail applications, and how can legal representatives and engaged experts request a tele or video conference with a prisoner?

Updated 3 August 2020

Please refer to the correctional centre conference booking methods document for instructions on how to make a video or teleconference booking with your client.

Procurement and finance

Will QCS continue to honour current contracts with service providers?

Updated 8 May 2020

The Deputy Premier and Minister for Corrective Services have written to providers providing assurance that the Queensland Government would honour existing funding commitments during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, QCS has been negotiating with service providers on a case by case basis to make adaptions as required in the context of COVID-19. For example, in some cases alternative modes of delivery are ensuring services can continue to be provided, albeit differently.

QCS recognises the important work done by all our providers, some of which is highly specialised and unique. We recognise too that it is certainly in the best interest of the community at large, for providers to be in a position to resume service delivery as recovery commences.

Last updated: 29 September 2020
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