Monday 8 June 2020

We deliver an essential public service in prisons and communities, and we are committed to continuing our work to keep New Zealanders safe. There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among prisoners at any of our prisons, and the wellbeing and safety of prisoners, our staff and the public remain our top priority.

The government has announced that New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 1 at 12.00am on Tuesday 9 June. At Alert Level 1, most restrictions affecting our operations will end and alongside New Zealand we will move towards the “new normal". This means we will be working towards safely resuming all of our operations, while continuing to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and the people we manage continues to come first.

At Alert Level 2 face-to-face visits with prisoners resumed for friends and family. At Alert Level 1, all legal visits and New Zealand Parole Board hearings that had been occurring remotely may now also resume in person. Safety measures will continue to be in place for all visitors to all sites, including contact tracing, health screening, increased hand hygiene measures, the use of thermal imaging cameras on entry, and optional PPE. We will be increasing the total number of visitors able to attend each visit session and visitors will no longer be required to maintain physical distancing.

Guided and temporary release of prisoners (for example, reintegration activities outside prison), temporary removal, release to work activities, face-to-face rehabilitation programmes and non-essential prison industries that weren’t able to resume under other Alert Levels will now do so. All remaining education, employment, rehabilitation and constructive activities in prisons will resume.

We will continue to have a number of controls in place to minimise all risks relating to the transmission of COVID-19 in our prisons in order to keep everyone safe. PPE will continue to be used where there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, and in receiving offices. PPE will also be available for use by staff and all visitors to our sites. We will also maintain the separation of people who have arrived in a prison during the last 14 days, and if anyone is suspected to have COVID-19 we will manage them in quarantine.

Our 100+ Community Corrections sites are open, but some people serving community-based sentences and orders will continue to report to probation staff by phone. Staff will continue to assist people to source accommodation, undertake treatment and provide other practical support as we can. At earlier Alert Levels, home visits could only take place in some specific circumstances. Home visits can now resume with the use of health screening and enhanced hygiene measures. All community work activities can also resume. Probation officers will contact people serving community work sentences to explain what this means for them. Court activities will resume as courts return to their operations.

Throughout all Alert Levels, the electronic monitoring of offenders in the community has continued as usual, including the installation and removal of monitoring equipment.

Staff working in regional offices and National Office are progressively resuming normal working arrangements this week. Flexible working arrangements can be discussed with managers.

We have a large workforce of over 10,000 people who come to work every day to keep New Zealanders safe. I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of our essential workforce who have done an exceptional job in very challenging circumstances. While the challenge presented by COVID-19 is not one that we have faced on this scale before, I know that our people are committed to the safety of all of our communities, and I am grateful for their service.

Rachel Leota,
National Commissioner