COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Information for stakeholders

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 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.

With the easing of restrictions in community and under the guidance of Queensland Health and the Chief Health Officer, QCS commenced a staged easing restrictions across correctional centres from 12 June. Nonetheless planning has been put in place should outbreaks of COVID-19 occur in Queensland, allowing for a staged and proportionate response 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 are isolated and treated in hospital by Queensland Health and not returned to the correctional centre until cleared of infection. These 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

Recovery commencement plan

(3 July 2020)

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 3 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.

Stage 1. (Re- activated 12 June 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. (Ended state-wide 12 June 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 3 August 2020

From 12 June 2020 Community Corrections statewide 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.

*Due to the identification of positive cases of COVID-19 in the Southern Metro area of Brisbane, on 29 July 2020 Community Corrections reporting offices in Logan, Beenleigh, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane South, Ipswich, and Inala resumed Stage 2 restrictions. This means further steps are being taken at these offices to minimise risk of COVID-19 transmission based on risk and health advice.

Correctional centres

How is QCS managing correctional centres during COVID-19?

Updated 3 August 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. (Re-activated 12 June 2020. Re-activated for South East Queensland centres from 29 July) 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. (Ended 12 June 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 3 August 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. The need for such declarations has been regularly reviewed as required to protect the health of all those in our care, officers and the community while the pandemic continues.

From 12 June, with the easing of restrictions within the Queensland community all centres returned to Stage 2 restrictions, 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 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 have again been made to the COVID-19 restrictions in place for QCS. While Queensland Health works to understand the extent of cases and undertake contact tracing, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, we have made the decision to return to Stage 2 restrictions in the South East Queensland correctional centres. These include:

  • Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre
  • Borallon Training and Correctional Centre
  • Brisbane Correctional Centre
  • Brisbane Womens Correctional Centre
  • Helena Jones Centre
  • Maryborough Correctional Centre
  • Numinbah Correctional Centre
  • Palen Creek Correctional Centre
  • Southern Queensland Correctional Centre
  • Wolston Correctional Centre
  • Woodford Correctional Centre

For these correctional centres:

  • Personal visits are suspended and the use of virtual visits as an alternative is encouraged.
  • Other non-personal visits can continue (professional visits, Official Visitors etc).
  • The 14-day isolation of new admissions has resumed.
  • Daily activities, including industries, education and out of cell time continue to the greatest extent possible, given the need for social distancing.

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 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 3 August 2020

In accordance with Queensland Health advice, further steps were taken on 8 April 2020 to help stop COVID-19 entering Queensland prisons by isolating all new receptions. As restrictions eased in the community new receptions to prison were no longer isolated from 12 June.*

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 isolated and treated in hospital by Queensland Health and not returned to the correctional centre until cleared of infection. This 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 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.

*The isolation of new receptions to prison recommenced for South East Queensland correctional centres when Stage 2 restrictions resumed on 29 July 2020 after positive COVID-19 cases were identified in the Brisbane Metro South area.

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 the 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 (CHO) 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 CHO 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 3 August 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.

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: 3 August 2020
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