Prison lockdowns cannot be the solution to preventing COVID-19 outbreak

27th Aug 2020

As some 7000 prisoners in Queensland are placed into ‘extreme isolation’ to manage the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak, governments and courts are being urged to reduce the number of people in prison and provide for discounts on sentence time served.

“Placing thousands of prisoners into isolation is outrageous. Prison lockdowns cannot be the solution to preventing a COVID-19 outbreak,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, criminal justice spokesperson, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Lockdown means solitary confinement and no rehabilitation programs or family visits; an increased risk of mental harm and it creates an increasingly intolerable and unstable environment within the prisons.

“If prisoners are placed in isolation there must then be the capacity to provide for remissions and discounts on sentence time served.”

Lockdowns and solitary confinement are inhumane and a form of torture that is contrary to Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

“The most effective way to avoid a serious outbreak of COVID-19 in our prison system is to drastically reduce the populations of prisons.  Prisoners have the same rights to health and safety as everyone else,” said Mr Barns SC.

“Health experts all around the world are recommending the responsible release of selected prisoners to reduce over-crowding and enable some physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. This can be achieved by reducing unnecessary admissions and expediting prison release for selected, low risk offenders.

“This move would protect inmates as well as prison staff and the broader community from the devastating impact of a COVID-19 outbreak in a prison.”

Tags: Queensland Criminal justice Prisons COVID-19