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Current situation

Key information

As at 31 August 2020:

  • There were 12,683 inmates in full-time custody.
  • There has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 within the inmate population in NSW.

There are currently 0 confirmed cases among the inmate population.

On 28 August a healthcare employee who worked at Surry Hills Court Cell Complex tested positive for COVID-19. The employee wore appropriate PPE while on duty and all necessary precautions have been taken to protect staff and inmates.

On 28 March 2020, a healthcare employee who worked at Long Bay Hospital tested positive for COVID-19. All necessary measures were taken to protect staff and inmates.

No CSNSW correctional centre staff have tested positive.

CSNSW COVID-Safe Roadmap

The Corrective Services NSW COVID-Safe Roadmap is available here. It sets out a three step process for resuming the programs and activities that are currently suspended or restricted.

A number of measures will remain in place for some time, as they remain critical to addressing the remaining risks of infection.

Decisions to ease restrictions will be:

  • risk based to ensure the health and safety of staff, offenders and the wider community. Decisions will consider the potential impacts on our operating environments.
  • flexible and respond to changes in risk levels within the community
  • informed by the advice of the Ministry of Health and other experts
  • able to take into account local issues and needs.

Our focus is on returning to business as usual where it is safe to do so. If advice changes, we may have to reinstate restrictions quickly to ensure safety.

There are some measures that will remain. This includes the use of Personal Protective Equipment where required, increased cleaning in correctional centres and other workplaces and temperature checking of all persons entering a correctional centre and most other workplaces.

Social visits

In person social visits were suspended in NSW and all around Australia and New Zealand as a key measure to prevent COVID-19 entering custodial facilities. We know that in person visits are an important way of keeping engaged and connected with family and friends and we will resume visits when it is safe to do so.

Work is underway to recommence in person social visits at correctional centres. This will be done in a gradual way to manage ongoing risks and maintain a safe environment for staff, inmates and visitors.

When we do recommence visits, there will be some restrictions and changes to how they are conducted to reduce risk. Limits on the number of visitors and visits per inmate, and restrictions on the consumption of food and touching will be applied. Personal Protective Equipment may also be used.

Temperature checking of all persons entering correctional centres will continue. Enhanced measures to identify and intercept contraband will also feature.

CSNSW has received significant feedback on the success of video visits and will continue to offer these at all centres even after in person visits resume.

CSNSW continues to work closely with the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network (the Network) and NSW Ministry of Health to prevent and manage potential cases of COVID-19 within our correctional centres and workplaces.

The CSNSW Command Post coordinates our response with representatives from across CSNSW, the Network and the Public Service Association (PSA). More information about the steps we’re taking are detailed on this page.

If you have questions about our response to COVID-19 you can contact us by phone on (02) 8346 1300 between 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday.

Key actions

The measures introduced to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering our workplaces include:

  • Suspension of in person social visits from March 16.
  • Use of video visits for family and friends at all correctional centres.
  • Use of audio visual technology in place of face to face contact to reduce the risk to staff and offenders being managed in the community.
  • Restrictions on non-essential inmate movements between centres to help stop the spread.
  • Temperature checking of persons entering correctional centres.
  • Suspension of community works projects and work release.
  • Introduction of a 14 day quarantine period for all new inmates.
  • Establishing isolation hubs at existing centres across the state to help contain the virus in the event an inmate tests positive.
  • Establishing a field hospital at the Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre for inmates that test positive to COVID-19 and become acutely unwell.

COVID-19 Service Delivery Plan

The CSNSW Service Delivery Plan was implemented in March and provides the overarching framework for local plans at each of our workplaces including correctional centres. These plans are regularly revised and continue to be informed by expert advice from the Network and other authorities and amended as necessary.

Social visits

Social visits to adult correctional centres in NSW remain suspended. In the meantime, inmates are able to maintain contact with their family and friends through video visits delivered through tablets and our audio visual facilities

Video visits for family and friends

Corrective Services NSW has facilitated more than 95,000 video visits between inmates and their families after face-to-face contact was suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions. The feedback on video visits from both inmates and families has been positive and these visits will remain an option for visits.

Video visits utilise existing audio-visual studios normally used for court appearances, as well as tablet technology and mobile-signal boosters for prisons in remote areas.

For more information or to find out how to book, visit the CSNSW website.

Subsidised phone calls

During the suspension of all in person social visits, CSNSW has arranged for inmates to make up to three free phone calls per week to maintain contact with their family and friends. This is continuing and will be reviewed as part of the planned return to visits.

Legal and other professional visitors

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering out correctional centres we have restricted entry.

Legal and other professional visitors who require access to our centres, are still strongly encouraged to use Audio Visual Link facilities through JUSTConnect.

Where access is still required, essential visitors are subject to screening questions and a body temperature check. Any person with a temperature of 37.5 degrees or above is not permitted to enter.

Like the rest of the community, it is critical we minimise transmission risk of COVID-19. We are working closely with the Network to ensure we regularly review our approach in line with the latest medical advice.

Information for inmates

Our staff hold regular briefings with inmates to ensure new information is communicated quickly and ensure there is a clear understanding of new measures and the rationale behind them.

We continue to provide  resources to support inmates.

Inmates with cold or flu like symptoms

If an inmate develops cold or flu-like symptoms, they are immediately isolated and assessed by a clinician to determine if a COVID-19 test is required. The inmate is monitored and will not return to their normal routine until we are confident they pose no COVID-19 risk.

New inmates

We are continuing to implement a 14-day quarantine period for any new inmates entering our system. Inmates are tested upon reception to the correctional facility. During  the quarantine period inmates are monitored. If they develop cold or flu-like symptoms they will be promptly assessed by a clinician to rule out COVID-19.

Adjustments to programs and education

Ensuring inmates have access to education, programs and services is important. CSNSW continues to run some programs and education and we have adjusted service delivery to better accommodate physical distancing practices and reduce the risks for staff and inmates.

To reduce the risk to staff an inmates we restricted entry to some third-party education providers to reduce the number of people coming into our facilities.

We are reintroducing these programs at correctional centres on a case by case basis. The decision to reintroduce programs is based on a number of factors including: medical advice; the ability to maintain safe numbers; risk assessment of both the provider and the centre location; and appropriate hygiene measures.

Supporting vulnerable inmates

Just like in the wider community, there are inmates who are at greater risk if they contract the virus. CSNSW is working with the Network to ensure that the needs of those considered to be more at risk are considered. The Network has identified and is closely monitoring inmates at increased risk from infection, including those with a history of chronic illness and the aged. As an added precaution, all inmates with acute respiratory symptoms or fever are being tested for COVID-19, irrespective of potential contact with a confirmed case.

Screening processes at correctional centres

All centres are screening staff and any persons prior to entry. This includes a body temperature check. Anyone with a temperature of 37.5 degrees or above is not permitted to enter. Similarly, anyone exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms must not return until they are symptom free.

Planning for confirmed cases

Isolation hubs

In preparation for confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our system, we have established dedicated isolation hubs in existing facilities across the state.

If an inmate tests positive for COVID-19, they will be transferred to one of these hubs. These dedicated care facilities will ensure that inmate health and well-being can be appropriately managed. This includes communication with the inmate’s family and supporting access to services such as mental health care.

Within the hub, inmates will be placed in their own cell to help minimise movements, limit close contact, keep staff safe and prevent further spread.

Temporary hospital

A temporary hospital has been established at the Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre to manage inmates who become acutely unwell due to COVID-19. The Network will be responsible for providing all services in the hospital, with CSNSW staff in charge of security.

At this stage the hospital is not required however it is important to act now and ensure we are prepared for all scenarios.

The temporary hospital will ensure inmates receive the treatment they need while keeping public hospitals free of complex security protocols.

Managing the treatment of inmates within correctional centres is the best way of maintaining community safety and preventing the spread.

Legislative changes were made in response to COVID-19 which give the Commissioner for CSNSW authority to conditionally release some low risk and vulnerable inmates from prison, if this is necessary for the safety and effectiveness of our prisons.

To date, no inmates have been released to parole under this arrangement.

For more information read the Stronger Communities Cluster response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

If you have questions about a friend or family member in custody you can contact us by phone on 02 8346 1300 between 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday.

Note our staff are bound by the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 and the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 which restricts what information they can disclose.

Community Corrections offices remain open and we continue to manage and provide services to people on a court or parole order.

To protect the safety of staff, offenders and the community, some changes have been made to normal services. For example, due to safe distancing policies, community service work has been temporarily suspended.

The following still applies:

  • If you have been released from custody you must attend your local Community Corrections Office within 24 hours.
  • You must maintain contact with your Community Corrections Officer.

If you are unwell, don’t come to a Community Corrections office. Contact your Community Corrections Officer by phone if:

  • you have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing), or
  • you have been told to self-isolate, or
  • you have been in close contact with any person who is required to self-isolate, or has tested positive to the coronavirus.

Find the Community Corrections office number in the NSW Government Directory.

Please monitor this page or contact your Community Corrections Office for further information.

Building and commissioning work related to critical CSNSW Infrastructure will continue with health and safety modifications in place.

External contractors and third parties employed for infrastructure works remain subject to restrictions and additional screening as outlined in the ‘information for visitors to correctional centres’ section above.

You can read more about CSNSW Infrastructure works on the Better Prison webpage.

If you have questions about our response to COVID-19 you can contact us by phone on 02 8346 1300 between 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday.

Note our staff are bound by the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 and the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 which restricts what information they can disclose.

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Last updated: 03 Sep 2020