Oceania: coronavirus, prison fever
Access to healthcare, sentence adjustments, acts of protest, contacts with the outside world: what are the consequences of the pandemic on the living conditions in Oceanian prisons? // Updated on 11 December 2020 at 15:20 CEST.
Confirmed cases amongst prisoners: 48
Sanitary conditions and access to healthcare
5 September. Staff members at Arthur Gorrie prison (Queensland) were ordered to go from their homes directly to their places of work and back, without stopping, in order to mitigate the risks of spreading the virus. The union, Together, said this was incomprehensible and demanded an explanation.
27 June. Around 160 inmates at Bunbury prison in Western Australia expressed their intention to take part in the drug-user rehabilitation programme run by the not-for-profit organisation Doors Wide Open. Through confiscation and testing, the prison authorities estimated that drug consumption and trafficking had fallen by 75% since visits were suspended.
22 May. A field hospital with 33 beds has been constructed in a warehouse of the Long Bay prison in Sydney, in case of a virus outbreak. New South Wales authorities said that they had begun planning and implementing preventive strategies since mid-January.
20 April. Tests are being carried out systematically on new inmates at Silverwater’s Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre near Sydney, the first port of call for many inmates.
1 May. A Supreme Court judge orders the government of Victoria and G4S, company that runs Port Phillip prison, to improve the preventative measures in the prison following a complaint from a prisoner.
22 April. Tasmania prison services have converted their prison textile workshops into protective mask production centres. More than a thousand have already been produced.
31 March. Federal health authorities publish guidelines for correctional and detention facilities that specify the preventative and quarantine measures to take when a prisoner is suspected of being infected.
The Federal Health Minister announced the incorporation of private hospitals into the public health service for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prisoners who are infected or ill will be sent to the private hospitals.
Members of prison staff and prisoners were tested, in the State of Queensland, as a precautionary measure. The authorities in South Australia have developed crisis strategies to manage a potential spread of the coronavirus in prison. The State of Queensland and Western Australia announced the creation of special units to manage the situation.
A third of the 43 000 people incarcerated in the country suffer from a chronic disease such as diabetes.
24 October. The Attorney General of Victoria considered a series of reforms that would sustain the measures taken during the pandemic. One of the aims is to reduce the number of people in pre-trial detention and implement the bail law. The number of people affected by the release on bail has increased by 640% in seven years. Some temporary measures, such as transitional accommodation for those released from prison, should also be permanent.
9 June. Victoria registered a decrease in the prison population. The state then had 7 902 prisoners, 10% less than a year earlier. Judges favoured alternative measures to remanding people in custody from the start of the epidemic.
10 May. The New South Wales Prison Service Bureau of Statistics registered a decrease, between March 15 and May 10, of 10.7% of the prison population. This went from 14,157 to 12,649 prisoners. This change was mainly explained by a significant drop in the number of people placed in pre-trial detention in connection with preventive measures against COVID-19.
5 May. The federal government gave $63.3 million in emergency funding for the justice system. The endowment aimed to combat domestic violence and support its digital development.
25 September. The government of the State of Victoria granted an exceptional sentence reduction of one day for every day of strict quarantine. This translated to an average sentence reduction of 16.4 days for 4,313 prisoners. A prison official noted that the administration deserves the right to terminate this arrangement in the event of misconduct, but acknowledges that, “despite the current challenges and restrictions faced by prisoners, they are seeing the lowest levels of inter-prisoner violence in six years.”
11 May. The UN program Sisters Inside FreeHer, helped to obtain the conditional release of 125 female prisoners held since the onset of the pandemic. The organisation paid for their bail, finds accommodation and provided material and psychological support.
1 May. Former detention centre Maribyrnong in Melbourne will be converted in order to temporarily house homeless prisoners released from jail during the coronavirus pandemic. Sex offenders will not be allowed access to this last-resort accommodation. The site will have 24-hour security and supervision. The first residents could move in by June.
25 March. Several dozens of prisoners form the North Territory classified as “non dangerous” were about to be released.
22 March. Several hundreds of prisoners from New South Wales had to be released quickly. Several Aborigine organisations welcomed this decision with relief but requested more ambitious measures. Aborigenes, who only account for 2.5% of the Australian population, represent 27.4% of the prison population. They are also at a highest risk of suffering from a number of health conditions.
Contact with the outside world
21 November. Officials distributed 800 tablet computers to Dillwynia, John Morony and Clarence prisons. Inmates can use them three times a week to connect with loved ones without having to schedule a time. They can get online news, learning and rehabilitation services (mental health support, behavioral courses). Authorities hope to roll them out to other facilities if the trial turns out positive.
In-person visits were to resume on 23 November.
16 November. In New South Wales, visits were resumed. The number of visitors and the duration of visits are limited. Physical distancing measures are in place.
20 October. Prison visits in the states of New South Wales and Victoria are still prohibited. Although video calls are allowed, the lack of physical connections weighs on the prisoner’s health and their families.
29 September. Juveniles incarcerated in Parkville and Malmsbury prisons (Victoria) have been deprived of physical contact for seven months now. Volunteers who used to visit them can now only do so by videoconference.
16 September. Classes and workshops were cancelled in Risdon prison (Tasmania).
13 September. Activities resumed gradually at Arthur Gorrie prison (Queensland) following a complete lockdown of two weeks. So-called “non-essential visits” were still banned.
29 July. The health authorities suspended again all family visits for all prisons in the south West of Queensland. They had been authorised again on 10 July. Professional and legal visits by lawyers and officials were still authorised but must comply with strict physical distance instructions.
24 July. With the overall quarantine still operating at theRavenhall Private Prison and at the Malmsbury Juvenile Prison in Victoria State, adult inmates could only be released from their cells unless to make phone calls. Juvenile detainees benefitted from short walks. Many prisoners held at the Ravenhall prison had reportedly not been released from their cells for several days.
21 July. The prisons of Ravenhall, Hopkins, Langi Kal Kal, Barwon, Fulham and Loddon in the State of Victoria were totally gone into lockdown after the detection of several positive cases among prisoners and staff.
8 July. A truck driver was accused of smuggling contraband after he was caught smuggling tobacco and steroids into Geoffrey Pearce prison in the State of New South Wales. He admitted that smuggling contraband into prison was “easy”, that he was paid by relatives on the outside, and said he was personally committed to smuggling in order to make up for his reduced hours following the State lockdown.
5 July. Prison guards from the State of Victoria were assigned to guard the Melbourne airport hotel where travelers were placed in quarantine. Their expertise would help health services to better contain the pandemic. People who had been sentenced and were to be expelled from the country, to New Zealand in particular, would be isolated in such centres before being deported.
1 July. The Queensland authorities prepared for prison visits to resume on 10 July. New conditions were set out, including taking temperature checks, washing hands and restricting physical contact. One visit per week per prisoner was allowed.
13 July. The state of South Australia allowed limited relative visitations in prison. Many preventive measures were applied, such as limiting the number of visitors, taking their temperature, and a mandatory distance of 1.5 meters between the inmate and his visitor during 45-minute visits.
27 June. Prison visits resumed in Western Australia. The Government introduced new laws imposing fines and prison sentences to visitors found guilty of bringing drugs or contraband into prisons.
12 June. Sports and religious activities resumed in Western Australia. The prison administration also prepared to resume visits in the coming weeks. Prisoners and their loved ones would be required to comply with social distancing measures. Digital videoconferencing facilities continue to be available.
Visits from officials, outside speakers, chaplains and spiritual leaders resumed in Queensland prisons. Officials are preparing to resume visits from loved ones on 10 July.
5 June. The Prison Administration of Queensland arranged a voice mail service to facilitate contact between the prisoners and their relatives. This new device would be in addition to the email correspondence and video calls. The suspension of visits remained in effect.
5 May. The federal government launched a programme called “Safe travel plans”. It aimed to support the return of aboriginal prisoners at the end of their sentence within their community with the provision of transport and accommodation. Any prisoner going out must observe a compulsory period of isolation.
1 May. Victoria prisons have reportedly been conducting about 600 “virtual visits” a day.
16 April. The suspension of visits led to prisoners using alternative means to procure drugs. Old officially-stamped mail from lawyers, which is considered confidential, is allegedly being used by detainees.
13 April. There were about 1 200 virtual visits to the New South Wales prisons. The 14 000 detainees in this state were isolated for the previous month and were not allowed visits in person.
10 April. Inmates in the women’s prison of Darwin in the North Territory continued to air their podcast Birds Eye View despite the lockdown.
8 April. Prisoners arriving in Queensland prisons were from then placed in solitary confinement for two weeks. All prisoners would be tested when entering and leaving prison. Only essential prison and health staff would be allowed to enter the establishments.
26 March. Prison visits were suspended in Queensland.
25 March. Prison visits were suspended in the North Territory.
23 March. Prison visits were suspended in Eastern Australia.
22 March. Prison visits were suspended in the Canberra district.
21 March. Prison visits were suspended in the State of Victoria and in Tasmania.
20 March. Prison visits were suspended in Western Australia. Prisoners received additional phone credit.
19 March. The state of New South Wales suspended all visits until further notice. It announced that it would provide 600 tablets for prisoners to carry out their visits via videoconference.
Acts of protest
3 September. Some inmates at Borallon prison, west of Brisbane, protested against the lockdown. They destroyed four cells, threw garbage out of windows and tried to start a fire. Two guards were taken to a medical centre for “a reaction to fire extinguisher chemicals”.
1 September. Inmates at Arthur Gorrie prison, in the Brisbane region (Queensland), rioted following a delay receiving meals and medication. The prison lockdown, the result of two guards testing positive, confined them to their cells for several days without being allowed out (for walks) or to communicate. The inmates tried to start fires, broke windows, threw garbage out in the yards and flooded their cells to show their exasperation. Two inmates and one guard were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.
28 June. A union official reported more than 20 attacks on prison officers in the past two weeks in the state of Queensland. Three officers were injured in Borallon prison, another was struck in the face at Woodford prison and one supervisor was beaten when a cell was opened at Townsville. A union director blamed the combined effects of the COVID-19 crisis, overcrowding and a lack of training to deal with people suffering from psychiatric issues.
13 May. Around twenty inmates from the Darwin prison in the North Territory protested against social distancing measures. They escaped from their cells and climbed on the roof of the prison. They lit fires which damaged three buildings and destroyed one. Damage was estimated at several million dollars. Over 100 officers and policemen were mobilized to control the riot. At least two prisoners were injured including one bitten by a dog.
7 May. Three prisoners die in the space of four days in Woodford and Wolston prisons in Queensland. Two of them were found with evidence of self-harm. Investigations are underway. Debbie Kilroy, of the NGO Sisters Inside, is worried about the psychological pressure as a result of the lockdown.
13 April. Protests occurred in the Wellington and Goulburn prisons in New South Wales. Guards quelled the protest movement with gas.
6 April. Prisoners took to the roof of the privately run Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre , protesting against the suspension of visits to Queensland prisons. The prison commissioner directed the lockdown of all State facilities in order to prevent further disruptive behavior.
28 March. Two prisoners set fire to their cell in the high security wing of the Cessnock prison (New South Wales). They protested against the imposed restrictions. The suspension of visits would reduce, according to officials, the circulation of drugs and increasing tensions.
Appeals and recommendations
14 December. Human rights lawyers called for the end of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period at Victoria prison for newly arrived prisoners since there were no COVID-19 cases. One of the human rights lawyers denounced “solitary confinement, which is an inhuman and degrading practice known to inflict long term and irreversible harm on people”. According to the government, 24 inmates in quarantine have tested positive since July. In-person visits to the prison that were suspended were to resume at the end of the week. Mandatory quarantine in youth justice centres ended 30 November. Newly arrived prisoners were required to self-isolate until testing negative.
24 October. Lawyers noted a steep drop on the use of specialized support that is customary for prisoners with intellectual disabilities. Internal disciplinary hearings and the sanctions awarded to these prisoners are held in the absence of external support. A member of the RMIT’s Center for Innovative Justice added: “Many people would not be identified as having a need for a [support officer]. If they’re not diagnosed … they’re more likely to be having disciplinary issues. To top it off, they’re having hearing without adequate support.”
30 September. A member of the Commission for Children and Young People worries) about the state of physical and mental health of juveniles incarcerated in the state of Victoria. These young prisoners have not had any physical contact with their relatives for the past seven months: “These children have been in lockdown, far worse than any Melbournian could ever even imagine, for seven months. These children have been punished enough. They have been exposed to the violence of prisons at such an early age. It is not only time to raise the age of criminal responsibility. It is time to release these children.”
30 July. An Australian Lawyer Alliance (ALA) spokesperson requested the government to allow the release of non-violent prisoners in order to vacant penal facilities. He believed that “the quarantine in prisons cannot be the solution. Quarantining a prison means imposing solitary detention, the lack of a reintegration program and family visits presents a higher risk of mental disorders “.
24 July. The Human Rights Commissioner of Victoria demanded the state government to urgently release prisoners considering the COVID-19 epidemic.
17 July. The Greens party asked for the release of prisoners at the end of their sentence, in pre-trial detention, incarcerated for petty crimes or suffering from serious pathologies “in order to protect prisoners and staff members from the continuous spread of the epidemic “.
27 May. The coalition of NGOs Change the record invited federal and State governments to take into account the situation of incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The coalition recommended releasing all Aboriginal prisoners who were not considered dangerous, as well as elderly, seriously ill and underage people, not to mention those awaiting trial. It requested that their rights to justice, the maintenance of family ties, adapted psychiatric care and education be guaranteed. According to the coalition, the legal system should rapidly undergo structural reforms to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
15 April. Human Rights Watch compared the coronavirus to “a ticking time bomb for Australia’s prisons”. The organisation was particularly worried about the situation of prisoners with disabilities, who were regularly subjected to privations and assaults. It called for the release of persons in temporary detention and those sentenced for non violent offences, as well as the safeguarding of prisoners’ mental and physical well being.
5 April. The human rights commissioner of the State of Queensland and Amnesty International Indigenous declared they were concerned about the massive incarceration of minors and the toughening of criminal policies towards them. They called for the rapid release of minors and the adoption of ambitious social policies to protect them from the coronavirus epidemic. The vast majority of incarcerated adolescents are of Aboriginal origin and come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
16 November. A staff member at Yatala prison tested positive. Officials are trying to identify other potential cases among inmates and staff at the prison.
10 September. One inmate at the Adelaïde prison for women (Western Australia) showed symptoms. Several others were forced into isolation as a preventative measure.
28 August. A trainer from Queensland Prison Academy tested positive.
26 August. The Victoria state attorney general announced that since the beginning of the pandemic, 23 adult prisoners, 19 juvenile prisoners, and 10 prison officials have tested positive.
30 July. One inmate tested positive at theParklea private prison, outside Sydney (New South Wales). The prison services transferred him to a dedicated unit in Silverwater prison.
24 July. Six educators from the Malmsbury juvenile prison in Victoria tested positive. One of them mentioned that the administration did not provide them with protective equipment, unlike the security staff.
21 July. A warden employed by the GEO company at theRavenhall private prison inVictoria state tested positive.
20 July. An Educator at the Malmsbury Juvenile Prison in Victoria State |tested positive.
17 July. A minor has tested positive while incarcerated at the Parkville Juvenile Prison in Melbourne.
15 July. One person tested positive at the time of his incarceration at the Melbourne Metropolitan Remand Centre in Victoria State.
11 May. Three prisoners tested negative for the coronavirus in Hopkins prison, in Victoria state, after testing positive on their first test. The correctional centre remained in lockdown while 200 other prisoners were being tested.
23 April. A second prison staff member tested positive at Wolston prison. Approximately twenty prisoners were quarantined after being in contact with them.
2 April. Sixty-nine detainees in New South Wales exhibited symptoms consistent with COVID-19. They were placed in isolation and the first tests were performed.
26 March. Two staff members at Long Bay penitentiary hospital in New South Wales tested positive for coronavirus.
25 March. A staff member from Wolston prison in Queensland tested positive for coronavirus.
22 September. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent 20,000 items of protective equipment (masks, gloves, visors, protective suits, etc.) and infrared thermometers to the prison administration.
25 June. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), via the Access to Justice Project funded by the European Union, made video conferencing facilities available in the island’s prisons. The prison authorities planned to organise some prisoners’ hearings, particularly those before the Supreme Court, via video conference.
15 May. Corrections Services and the Judiciary planned to have court hearings for inmates by video-conference. The prisons had recently installed the Skype program in order to allow prisoners to have contact with their families or lawyer without having to meet them in person.
22 April. The coalition for human rights in the Fiji islands regretted the death, on 14 April, of an inmate in the Suva prison. The death appears to be the result of brutality by security officers. The coalition called on law enforcement authorities to prevent emergency measures taken to deal with the pandemic being an excuse for human rights violations. Four correction officers were charged with murder.
14 April. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)donated the prison administration 200 boxes of gloves, sanitary products, hydroalcoholic gel and soap.
19 March. Prison visits were suspended.
Sanitary conditions and access to healthcare
19 July. The prison administration prepared the screening of all staff and prison population.
21 April. Prison authorities reported they had started to distribute masks to the 600 island prisoners. Each Mangilao detainee received one. Hagåtña prison detainees received two each. The authorities were preparing to distribute a sufficient quantity of hygiene products.
The number of prison admissions dropped from 11 to 4 per day between February and April.
8 April. The prison administration affirmed they provided prisoners with the necessary hygiene and cleaning products. A relative of a prisoner denounced the inconsistency of official statements with the reality: “prisoners did not even have toilet paper, and even less cleaning products or other hygiene products”. The cancellation of the visits deprived prisoners of their source of receiving hygienic products from their families. He added that “the guards had to provide their own masks and gloves. Most of them did not even wear them until today”.
14 March. The Federal Public Defender recommended that infected prisoners be isolated within hospitals and that only prisoners classified as “violent” should now remain in custody. He asked the prison authorities to provide soap and disinfecting products to prisoners. He raised concerns that prison overcrowding and lack of hygiene would only further the spread of the virus.
5 May. A sum of two million dollars, from a contingency budget specially voted in the context of the fight against the coronavirus, was allocated to the prison system.
Appeals and recommendations
10 July. The Federal Public Defender condemned the prison administration’s lack of transparency towards the prison population, after prisoners discovered through the media that wardens had been infected. He also considered it a problem that not a single prisoner had been tested and that the healthcare authorities had not bothered to track those who had been in contact with the people infected in the prison.
26 June. A women’s unit officer in Mangilao prison tested positive. The facility was completely contained while the health services were trying to identify other cases among the other officers and inmates. All visits, including those from lawyers, were suspended.
6 April. A member of the prison staff tested positive for COVID-19 after spending a week at Mangilao prison. The penitentiary staff of the island ensured that guards were wearing gloves and masks in detention. Religious visits and services were suspended. Incoming prisoners would be isolated and their temperatures would be taken. Travel would be limited to the strict minimum.
8 August. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) donated soap, bleach and hand-sanitizers to the Arorangi prison.
3 May. The ban on weekly prison visits has been lifted. The government lifted most restrictions after having declared that the archipelago was free of the coronavirus.
27 March. Visits to the Arorangi Prison, the only one of the Islands, were suspended. Detainees and wardens are taking part in a cleaning and rubbish-management campaign aimed at helping with the coronavirus response and preventing the spread of dengue fever.
28 May. The Commissioner of Prisons announced that there were no positive cases among neither inmates nor prison staff.
17 March. Judiciary facilities were closed to the public and their activity was limited. Prisoner hearings are to continue long-distance through electronic means.
Sanitary conditions and access to healthcare
1 September. Correctional Services Emergency Coordination group visited Gizo prison in the western province. It was to oversee the prevention measures put in place at the entrance and inside the facility: temperature taking, regular hand washing, sanitizing and cleaning of premises, mock exercises. The commissioner of prison administrations congratulated it for its COVID -19 preparedness. Similar visits were also conducted in Lata and Kirakira prisons.
13 May. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) donated 116 boxes of soap, 85 litres of liquid detergent, 45 litres of chlorine, 20 litres of sanitary products and 27 bottles of hand sanitiser to prison authorities.
Contact with the outside world
15 July. The prison administration indicated that, due to the health emergency situation, the programs and workshops usually offered to prisoners would remain suspended until further notice. However, it was notified that these workshops had an essential role to play in the rehabilitation of prisoners.
31 March. The Correctional Service Solomon Islands (CSSI) received nine mobile phones and 500 prepaid cards from the International Committee of the Red Cross to be distributed to prisoners. Visits to prisons have been curtailed since 23 March.
31 May. A Taiwanese diplomatic and technical mission built a farm within Topside prison. Its members were hoping in particular to help Nauru ensure its food security amid the COVID-19 epidemic and climate change.
9 April. The former Yaren prison was re-opened to allow isolation units for people arrested for breaking the curfew that was in force on the Island.
Confirmed cases amongst prisoners: 1
Sanitary conditions and access to healthcare
6 October. Spring Hill prison detected a case of tuberculosis. The inmate was in stable condition, was quarantined and received treatment.
Prison guards were not informed immediately. The union of prison guards criticised the Correctional Services for its lack of communication during the health crisis.
15 September. Two inmates and some twenty guards were placed in quarantine at Auckland prison after a staff family member tested positive.
6 July. Parole hearings and sentence follow-ups resumed in prison. The parole board conducted 600 hearings by video calls during the lockdown.
11 April. Eight foreign prisoners due to leave New Zealand remained imprisoned in spite of their sentence reduction or being at the end of their sentence. They would remain in the archipelago’s prisons until early May, as requested by prison administration.
Contact with the outside world
26 June. Relatives of inmates in Rimutaka prison were shocked by physical distancing measures, while the minimum alert level in prisons again authorized interactions. The central prison administration claimed to have ordered the facility heads to end these measures.
13 May. The prison administration resumed visits to prisons by family, lawyers, volunteers and researchers. Thermal cameras have been set up at prison entrances to prevent visitors with temperatures over 38°C from entering. Visitors are asked to wash their hands regularly and to wear a mask. Some social distancing measures are still in place to limit the number of visitors in one area.
Corrections would continue to issue phone cards to prisoners weekly during the lockdown. Prisoners and their loved ones were being encouraged to use email and video calling.
6 April. Prisoners were still confined to their cells for 20 to 23 hours a day. Some prisons, such as Spring Hill, no longer accepted packages from the outside.
27 March. Penitentiary establishments apply confinement level 4. All new prisoners are placed in isolation fourteen days after their arrival. Interviews with lawyers are only possible through the telephone. The administration distributes prepaid cards of 5 New Zealand dollars each week and facilitates access to e-mails. Supervisors are now wearing masks and gloves inside the establishments. They must also wear glasses and a protective gown when a prisoner is suspected of contracting the coronavirus.
24 March. Visit and leave permits are suspended.
14 December COVID-19 has been delaying the deportation process. People who have completed their sentences or overstayed their visas sometimes spend more than 200 days in prison. One lawyer denounced “a total absence of compassion and empathy.” There is no law limiting the imprisonment duration of someone who is served a deportation order. Officials are waiting for borders to re-open and increased flight availability to resume deportations.
22 June. The Ombudsman presented the results of his prison inspections. Prisoners in several facilities did not have daily access to fresh air. Organisation proved difficult in the prisons where admissions continued.
17 June. The judiciary reported that 60,000 court proceedings were backlogged since March and would resume in August. A special commission was struck to speed up the process. The files were mostly paper-based and it might be necessary to move to a digital model. The commission believed that “the amount of people in prison [was] unacceptable. Often they [were] not even convicted and [were] simply awaiting trial, they [didn’t] have access to rehabilitation so they [could] often be sentenced and released immediately. This should be a great concern to all of us as a society.”
16 April. Hearings were suspended until 31 July.
Acts of protest
30 December Twenty-one inmates set off fires in Waikeria prison. They were protesting against the deteriorating conditions of detention since the beginning of the pandemic. Prisoners sometimes spend up to 23 hours in a “cage-like cell” almost without natural light. They denounced the lack of food, water, basic supplies and the quality medical care. Negotiations are underway.
8 May Correctional officers have complained about an increase in spitting attacks.
Appeals and recommendations
10 September. The national coordinator of Amnesty International criticised the handling of prisons by officials, particularly in some facilities like Auckland prison for women. Prison conditions have, according to her, highlighted the failures of the current system. She called on the Prime Minister and the government to urgently re-examine their prison policy.
24 April. The Chief Ombudsman said that prison administration was attempting to “discourage” him from accessing prisons. He was concerned about the effects of confinement in prison, at a time when prisoners were being kept in their cells most hours of the day.
17 April. The organisation Just Speak worried about requests for the General Lawyer and the latest measures taken by the prison administration. It warned about the denial of prisoners’ rights and the danger that these measures represented for some of them. It called on New Zealand citizens to contact and put pressure on their legislative representatives and on government authorities.
16 April. Solicitor-General Una Jagose requested the judicial authorities to oppose the release on bail and the adjustment of the sentence of prisoners tested positive or suspected of being infected. She also asked to refuse the early releases of people whose accommodation was located in an environment deemed to be at risk.
19 March. Researchers and prison staff fear the arrival of coronavirus in New Zealand prisons. Several suspected cases isolated in Waikeria and Rotorua prisons have tested negative.
The Prison Service had implemented certain health precautionary measures last year during a measles outbreak at Mt Eden prison and Auckland prison for women.
9 May. A woman was detained for 10 days for refusing to be tested upon her return from the United States. She tested positive the day after leaving Auckland prison. Prison administration reported that two of its staff tested positive for coronavirus and have since recovered. They had had no contact with prisoners.
27 March. Two prisoners from Hawk Bay regional prison are suspected of having contracted Covid-19 and are in confinement. One of them refuses to be tested.
Sanitary conditions and access to healthcare
27 July. The prison administration said it was implementing additional preventive measures to protect prisoners, in particular at the Bomana prison. The health authorities were called upon to support the prison administration by screening prisoners, as well as the families and prison guards.
7 May. A private company and local politicians delivered hygienic products at Buimo prison. The head of the prison indicated that barrier gestures were impossible to apply.
25 April. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed masks for 700 prisoners and 200 staff members at Bomana prison. The organisation also financed the repair of the water network of the Mount Hagen police station. It sent hygienic products to those of Tari, Wabag, Mendi and to the prison of Bui Lebi. The Buka police station and the Beikut and Kerevat prisons in Bougainville received a month’s supply of hygienic and sanitary products.
24 March. Prisoners who show symptoms had to be kept in cells. Suffering staff were invited to stay at home. Chloroquine was prescribed for those with fever. Any suspicious case was transferred to the sectorial hospital. The country’s medical personnel, on strike for more than a month, warned on its lack of means.
12 June. A magistrate regretted that the Correctional Services had not ensured prisoners’ access to the courts during the state of emergency. She maintained that procedures should have been ready, “there are other contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid that the Correctional Services are faced with”, she said.
30 April. The Corrections Commissioner announced the forthcoming liberation of 100 elderly, sick or considered low-risk prisoners in order to ease the overcrowding in 20 prisons and police stations. The country’s prisons, which have a total capacity of 4 000 places, are occupied by over 50,000 inmates. Protective measures and social distancing cannot be enforced. The fear of the pandemic weighed on the inmates and staff equally. The Commissioner did not exclude, if the situation was to worsened, to “get everyone out”.
8 April. The government repatriated 60 Papuan national prisoners in the Indonesian prisons of Doyo Baru (Jayapura) and Bolangi (Sulawesi). They would be placed in isolation upon arrival in the territory.
Contact with the outside world
29 July. The exit permissions and outside reintegration activities were suspended until further notice in the Bomana prison due to the spread of COVID-19 in Port Moresby. A prison officer indicated that indoor activities, sports or household chores kept prisoners occupied. Visitors must wear a mask and wash their hands when entering the facility. New arrivals and prisoners transferred from other facilities would be placed in quarantine for two weeks before integrating the rest of the prison population.
1 May. Visits were gradually urged to resume. Prisoners usually relied on their loved ones to obtain basic hygiene supplies and food.
24 March. Visits, temporary absences and religious services were suspended. Facilities were subject to a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. during which entrances and exits were prohibited. Visits of relatives of prison staff and deliveries were controlled.
19 March. While cases of malaria and typhoid fever had been documented, prisons were preparing for the coronavirus epidemic. The prison administration announced complete isolation of facilities. Each new entry was tested upon admission. Visits were suspended until further notice. The administration was preparing to recruit new caregivers, with the assistance of the Ministry of Health.
8 May. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided sanitary and hygienic products for the 300 people detained in Tanumalala prison.
6 May Authorities have decided to resume visits to Tunamalala and Vaiaata prisons. However, relatives must apply at a police station a week in advance of each visit.
20 March The government declares a state of emergency. Prison visits have been suspended. Visits to police stations, where people are held in custody or custodial remand, are limited to one person at a time.
24 March. About 20 inmates escaped from the new Tanumalala prison. The prison administration, for which this was the second escape incident in four months, was taken over by the police.
Samoa had so far no declared coronavirus cases, but the archipelago was deeply marked by a recent measles outbreak in 2018-2019.
13 August The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) donated personal protection equipment (masks, gloves) and hygiene products (soap, bleach, sanitizers) to Correctional Services.
18 March. Visits to all correctional facilities are suspended. Mobile phones were allocated to prisoners. Relatives are no longer allowed to give food to inmates.
Inmates suspected of being contaminated are to be sheltered in place and diverted to the Health medical team. Hygiene kits have been distributed in all correctional facilities. A bus service dedicated to transporting prison staff between their homes and workplace has been set up to avoid contact with the public.
The governments of New Zealand, Australian and Solomon Islands, as well as international organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have offered assistance to the prison administration in order to prevent the spread of the epidemic.