There are currently three people with COVID-19 in Corrections custody. They are all men who were received into custody at Mt Eden Corrections Facility this month. Two of the men returned positive results for COVID-19 prior to coming into custody, and the third was a known associate of a positive case. All three men were therefore immediately placed into a dedicated quarantine area, where they have been cared for by fully vaccinated staff wearing full four point PPE, including masks, gloves, gowns and eye protection. No Corrections staff or people in prison are considered close contacts due to the way that the three men have been managed.
Two of the men remain in the quarantine area of the site, while one is currently in hospital. Corrections Officers are with the man in hospital to ensure the safety of the prisoner, hospital staff and the public.
Due to our legislative obligations under the Privacy Act 2020 and the Health Information Privacy Code, we are unable to provide any further information.
As an organisation, our top priority is safety – of the public, our staff, visitors to our sites and the people we are managing in prisons and the community. As we have seen in prisons internationally, the impact of COVID-19 can be devastating. We have a duty of care to the men and women we manage in prisons, and to our staff. We are well prepared for this situation, having successfully managed other cases of COVID-19 with no transmission between prisoners or staff. Since March 2020 we have put in place extensive plans to manage any risk to our staff or the people we manage, including robust infection prevention and control plans at all Alert Levels, with detailed record keeping for both staff and visitors to our sites to enable fast and thorough contact tracing.
Corrections has a number of controls in place to minimise risks relating to the transmission of COVID-19, including health screening for every person who enters a prison. The secure and controlled nature of the prison environment means we are able to quickly separate or quarantine prisoners as required and restrict their movements.
All new receptions into custody are transported in a secure vehicle and both prisoners and staff are required to wear PPE. Our prisoner escort vehicles have enhanced cleaning procedures in place to prevent any potential for the virus to spread between movements. If any prisoner developed symptoms they would also be placed into quarantine, and we would follow the advice of the Ministry of Health in terms of contact tracing to determine who else they may have had close contact with and who may require isolation and COVID-19 testing as recommended by health officials.
From the outset of the current outbreak, we have reintroduced our policy of separating people coming into custody for their first 14 days from those who have been in prison for longer. On arrival at site, all newly received prisoners remain separate from other prisoners, with physical distancing maintained, and are health screened for any indications of COVID-19. These newly received prisoners are wearing PPE as well as our Receiving Office staff during this process as an added precaution to keep staff and other prisoners safe.
If our health screening determines that a newly received prisoner has symptoms or potential symptoms of COVID-19, we take immediate steps to quarantine them as a precaution and to notify the Ministry of Health so all appropriate steps can be undertaken both at our sites and in the community. A prisoner will undergo a COVID-19 test should it be deemed a requirement following the screening process.
All prison staff are required to wear masks at all times while on site, and staff interacting with prisoners are wearing PPE to prevent transmission. We are also using thermal cameras on entry to prison to assist us with identifying anyone who is symptomatic. Prisoners are also being provided with PPE.
At our prison sites operating at Alert Level 3, we are limiting physical interaction between people, including temporarily suspending in-person visits to prisoners. Prisoners are being provided with phonecards to enable them to stay in touch with friends and family, and video visits may also be available. Statutory visits (e.g., the independent Corrections Inspectorate and the Office of the Ombudsman) continue to be facilitated. Legal visits and New Zealand Parole Board hearings are being facilitated by phone and AVL. Any visitors to our sites are also required to wear PPE.
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 are also temporarily suspended.