Croakey is closed for summer holidays and will resume publishing in the week of 18 January 2021. In the meantime, we are re-publishing some of our top articles from 2020.
This article was first published on March 25, 2020
Introduction by Croakey: The welfare of tens of thousands of prisoners, who are at high risk from COVID-19 outbreaks, remains uncertain in many jurisdictions despite NSW’s historic decision to release prisoners.
The NSW Government passed emergency legislation this week providing the Corrections Commissioner with powers to release some of the state’s 14,000 prisoners (read more at The Conversation).
It is not clear how many other jurisdictions may follow suit. It is understood Western Australia will not do so, that ACT is considering systematic releases, and that there are widespread concerns about the impact of bans on visitors, especially for young people in detention. NT is also planning some releases.
Meanwhile, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services have called on the Prime Minister for early release from prison and other urgent measures to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from COVID-19 in the justice system.
The national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) met with Minister Ken Wyatt and representatives from the Attorney General’s Department earlier this week, and later issued a statement:
Most of our people in prison have chronic health issues and are living with disability; they are most at risk.
With the over-representation of our people in prison, our lives are on the line.
People in prison are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. This is why we are calling for immediate early release, particularly people who are on remand, women who are victims of family violence and sentenced for lesser offences like fines and public order offences, young people and those most at risk of transmitting COVID-19, like elderly and people with health conditions.
At all costs, we must prevent any Aboriginal deaths in custody from COVID-19.”
The graphic in the feature image above can be viewed in more detail here, showing some of the health factors increasing prisoners’ risks from the novel coronavirus, on top of issues like overcrowded conditions.
Meanwhile, global concerns about the safety of prisoners during the pandemic were covered at @WePublicHealth last week by Associate Professor Megan Williams, Research Lead and Assistant Director of the National Centre for Cultural Competence at the University of Sydney and a contributing editor at Croakey.
Williams is also a member of the AIHW National Prisoner Health Information Committee.
Megan Williams tweets:
Williams covered the launch of the 2020 Close the Gap report.
Williams also had her skates on.
See other @WePublicHealth reports from 2020.