COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Information for stakeholders

The global effort to combat COVID-19 is well and truly underway 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 planned for this and our strategies have been multifaceted, thoughtful and decisive.

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

QCS’s fundamental strategy is 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.

We have isolated the prisons from all but essential workers such as our own staff and health workers who are temperature checked and health checked upon entry to all Queensland correctional centres. All non-essential visits such as social and personal visits have been cancelled.

To limit the risk of a prisoner with COVID-19 being received into a prison, prisoners entering the correctional system are subject to isolation for 14 days with temperature checks and health checks by Queensland Health personnel. We recognise that this is a significant departure from our usual procedures, but we absolutely must 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 temperature checks and health screening of the prisoner. 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 social distancing and adopted alternative mechanisms to face to face meetings to manage offenders where appropriate. We are also working with external providers to maintain intervention and program delivery where possible. Our teams continue to work closely with Queensland Police Service 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 is a rapidly changing environment and we recognise it is incredibly important to be communicating with people to keep them apprised 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

High Level Summary of QCS Management of COVID-19 within Correctional Centres: current 23 April 2020

Recovery commencement plan (21 May 2020)

Community Corrections

How are Community Corrections managing offenders during COVID-19?

Updated 24 April 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:

Stage 1. (Activated 20 March 2020) Adopt social distancing principles, undertake screening of offenders and adjust operational activities on a case-by-case basis to reduce likelihood of infection

Stage 2. (Activated 24 March 2020) Planned reduction of in person engagement with offenders and external services in order to increase social distancing and reduce exposure

Stage 3. Significant reduction of in person engagement with offenders, and suspension of operational activities assessed as unacceptable risk of exposure or infection

Stage 4. Public health declaration requires the public to limit movements and/or isolate due to spread of infection. Cease direct employee and offender contact with service delivery maintained via remote operations

What stage is Community Corrections currently implementing?

Updated 24 April 2020

Community Corrections are currently in Stage 2. Steps have been taken in Community Corrections offices located throughout the state to increase 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.

Correctional centres

How is QCS managing correctional centres during COVID-19?

Updated 24 April 2020

Steps have been taken to comply 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.

Stage 1. (Activated 6 March 2020) 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. (Activated 23 March 2020) 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. (Activated 27 March 2020) 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 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 24 April 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.

Wolston Correctional Centre (WCC) was temporarily moved to Stage 4 due to an officer testing positive to COVID‑19, before moving to Stage 3 restrictions. All other centres moved to Stage 3 restrictions, from 27 March 2020.

All centres remain in Stage 3 restrictions, with all visitor access to a prison prohibited unless as indicated or approved by the Commissioner under the declaration notice. This decision continues to be regularly reviewed against current health advice and the level of risk.

Stage 3 restrictions mean all personal and professional visits have ceased, except where these are essential such as QCS staff and health workers.

Contact with legal representatives continues to be facilitated through alternative means such as by telephone. Video-conferencing facilities are being used in some centres, with the remainder of centres working to implement such alternatives also.

Similarly, for personal contact steps have been put in place to increase contact with family members via telephone, while we also seek to implement video-conferencing options.

What health checks are there for QCS and QH staff prior to entering a correctional centre?

Updated 24 April 2020

To coincide with Stage 3 restrictions and help keep COVID-19 out of prisons, QCS has 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 flu-like systems is not be permitted access to the centre and is referred to seek medical advice.

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

Updated 24 April 2020

In accordance with Queensland Health advice, further steps were taken on 8 April 2020 to help stop COVID-19 entering Queensland prisons. To limit the risk of a prisoner with COVID-19 being received into the secure custody environment, reception prisoners are now subject to health and temperature checks by Queensland Health personnel and isolation for a period of 14 days. This new policy is consistent with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations and has been implemented while keeping human rights considerations at the core of QCS’ decision making.

To support health and wellbeing of each 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 the 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.

Prisoners requiring regular hospital treatment will not be subject to isolation protocols unless advised by Queensland Health.

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

How will an isolated prisoner be managed?

Updated 8 May 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 undertaking the following are not required to restart the 14-day isolation period:

  • attend medical appointments at the Medical Centre or a hospital
  • attend a video conference
  • other essential appointments (e.g. At-Risk management).

Risk mitigation strategies will manage all prisoner external to cell activities during the isolation period. At a minimum, strategies must include:

  • controlled movement with direct supervision
  • minimised, to the greatest extent possible, surface contact by prisoner
  • infection control cleaning of all surface contact points after the activity.

A prisoner will only be required to restart or undertake the 14-day isolation period after they:

  • are transferred into QPS custody at any point
  • are transferred to a court or Watchhouse facility
  • undertake a leave of absence (eg: compassionate leave of absence approval to attend a funeral in the community)

What other restrictions on prisoner movements are in place?

Updated 8 May 2020

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

Primary transfer of prisoners from reception/remand facilities in south east Queensland to placement facilities is approved.

Are there prisoner movements not affected by isolation requirements?

Updated 8 May 2020

Movements between low custody sites, between secure custody facilities and prisoners moving from a secure to a low custody facility are not subject to isolation protocols.

How are you managing vulnerable prisoners?

Updated 8 May 2020

A vulnerable prisoner is a prisoner accommodated within a corrective services facility 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.

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

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.

Is Parole Board Queensland (PBQ) prioritising vulnerable prisoners who are eligible for parole?

Updated 24 April 2020

Additional resources are being utilised by PBQ to respond to parole applications in the context of COVID-19, including exceptional circumstances parole applications and those made by prisoners in categories identified as vulnerable to COVID-19. PBQ has been liaising with Queensland Health and QCS to identify vulnerable prisoners so that their applications for parole can be dealt with. Parole decisions will continue to be informed by medical information provided by Queensland Health in accordance with the Ministerial Guidelines for the PBQ.

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 24 April 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.

Where Queensland’s Indigenous communities have travel restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, QCS is working with government partners to help support compliance with these restrictions for prisoners and offenders released or discharged who wish to return to their community.

When will visits with prisoners re-commence?

Updated 8 May 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 personal visits are currently on hold and access to centres is prohibited except for essential workers such as for Queensland Corrective Services officers and health professionals.

Queensland Corrective Services has started looking at when face-to-face visitation may recommence in consultation with Queensland Health. Broadly, you can expect Queensland Corrective Services will align changes with the Queensland Government’s easing of restrictions within the general community and evidence that this is not resulting in an increased rate of COVID-19 infection.

To support legal representatives to keep in contact with prisoners, work is being undertaken to provide prisoners with access to their legal representatives through video conferencing.

Virtual personal visits (VPV) are now available for family and friends of prisoners to protect the health of prisoners, visitors and officers. Our teams are working hard to roll out the program across Queensland to keep prisoners in contact with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. As this is a new program, there may be a delay in booking availability due to the demand for visits. We’re 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.

Access to legal representation

How is QCS supporting prisoners and their legal representatives on bail applications?

Updated 24 April 2020

There is high demand for legal practitioners’ contact with defendants in custody to support bail applications. QCS has put measures in place to ensure this can be achieved in a timely manner.

To expedite contact with your clients, telephone contact between prisoners and their legal representatives can be facilitated in addition to usual videolink requests.

Details for bookings contacts at each Correctional Centre can be found here. You will note the extended operating hours at some centres, which are now offering seven day per week bookings.

Legal practitioners who wish to access their clients to take instructions to bring a bail application will be prioritised for a 30-minute telephone booking. This will be facilitated using a non-recorded telephone line in a private room or booth.  

PLEASE NOTE: If you request a videolink, there may be a delay in obtaining a booking as those facilities are being prioritised for court proceedings as we progress an increase in capacity.

Please ensure the following information is included in the booking request, whether the request is by email or over the phone:

  1. Subject line must read PHONE BOOKING – BAIL INSTRUCTIONS
  2. Prisoner’s name and Date of Birth (if known)
  3. Legal representative’s name and firm
  4. Preferred date and time of appointment

Should you experience any difficulty with the booking system please contact covid19specops@corrections.qld.gov.au by email, and we will endeavour to resolve the issue at the earliest opportunity.

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 can legal representatives and engaged experts request a tele or video conference with a prisoner?

Updated 8 May 2020

Please refer to the Telephone and Videolink booking document and 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.

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