Corrections has today made the decision to require all private visitors to prisons nationwide to have had their first COVID-19 vaccine before 13 November 2021 and be fully vaccinated before 9 December 2021.
“This is not a decision we have made lightly, and we acknowledge the significant impact this will have for people in prison with unvaccinated friends and whānau,” says Chief Custodial Officer, Neil Beales.
“Ultimately, we take our duty of care to people in prison and the wellbeing of our staff seriously, and we must act to prevent them from the very serious harm that COVID-19 poses. Requiring visitors to be vaccinated lessens the potential for COVID-19 to be introduced to a prison. This will also help minimise impacts on the wider health system, which could face additional pressure if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred in a prison.”
People in prison are some of the most susceptible to COVID-19, due to many being vulnerable due to existing health conditions, and due to the ease of transmission that COVID-19 could have in the prison environment. Due to the overrepresentation of Māori in prison, a COVID-19 outbreak would also disproportionately affect this group.
“As we have seen internationally, COVID-19 can be extremely devastating in residential environments with large numbers of people living in close proximity to each other. Internationally many prison staff and prisoners have become very unwell and some have died as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons,” says Mr Beales.
“Since March 2020 we have managed 21 people with COVID-19 in our prisons, with no transmission between prisoners or staff. However, it would be irresponsible for us not to be proactively planning for and taking steps to prevent the potential for an outbreak.
“We have already taken extensive measures to keep COVID-19 out of prisons, with health screening and PPE requirements a standard part of our entry requirements for all visitors. We are also managing newly received prisoners separately for their first 14 days in custody, and carrying out routine testing for COVID-19 on days 0, 5 and 12.
“This is yet another step we are taking to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the people we manage and our staff, and to give extra assurance to the whānau and friends of those in prison that we are taking every step to protect them from COVID-19.”
We continue to provide AVL facilities, access to phones, and phone cards to ensure prisoners can continue to contact friends and whānau until they are able to meet the new requirements. More information on how family and friends can be found on our website.
The new requirements are:
From 13 November 2021: all private visitors to prison aged 12 and over will be required to have had at least one vaccination. Ahead of the release of vaccination certificates, they will be required to present either a purple COVID-19 vaccination record card or a printed copy of their online My Covid Record.
From 9 December 2021: all private visitors to prison aged 12 and over will be required to be fully vaccinated. They will be required to present a printed version of their vaccination certificate on arrival.
“We will be looking to write to all approved visitors of those currently in prison in the coming days to outline the new requirements and when these will need to be met. Our visitor information on the Corrections website will also be updated to reflect this.”
“If you have not been vaccinated, now is the time to read the information available about the vaccine safety and effectiveness, and what support is available to help you get vaccinated. This is available at www.health.govt.nz and www.covid19.govt.nz.
Please note, these new requirements have been made under regulations 88, 91, 92, 93 and 101 of the Corrections Regulations 2005. These regulations allow for conditions to be imposed on the approval of specified or private visitors, and others, by a prison manager or by the Chief Executive.