Today we have advised staff and prisoners that we are temporarily suspending all private and volunteer visits, release to work activities and other non-essential movements in and out of our prison sites.
We will also be temporarily suspending community work activities carried out by offenders in the community.
“As an organisation, our top priority is safety – of the public, our staff, visitors to our sites and the people we are managing in prison and the community,” says National Commissioner Rachel Leota.
“This is not a decision we take lightly. The best way we can keep people safe from the risk COVID-19 presents is by temporarily restricting a large amount of non-essential movements in and out of our prisons and at our community work sites. People’s health and safety has to be our top priority.”
From midnight tonight, the following prison activities will be temporarily suspended:
- Private visits
- Volunteer visits
- Guided and temporary release of prisoners (for example, reintegration activities outside prison)
- Non-essential temporary removals (for example, non-essential medical escorts)
- Release to work activities
- Visits by researchers
“We know the decision to suspend prison visits and other activities will be incredibly disappointing for prisoners, their families and friends. We are working hard to support people to maintain increased contact through telephone calls, letters and emails. This includes supplying all prisoners with a $5 phonecard each week, the addition of more phones in residential units, and increasing the use of inbound emails that can be printed and given to prisoners,” says Rachel Leota.
“We have also provided prisoners and their visitors with information about why we have made this decision.
“There are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in any of our prisons.
“Probation officers will be contacting people serving community work sentences to explain what the suspension of community work activities will mean for them.
“Our work requires us to constantly balance a dynamic range of risks and issues on a daily basis, and we are doing everything possible to respond to the unprecedented situation we all face with COVID-19.
“Keeping New Zealanders safe is paramount and a duty we take extremely seriously. We will continue providing this essential public service regardless of the challenges and changes we face. I’m incredibly grateful to all of our staff for the work they have been doing through this time," says Rachel Leota.
We have approximately 1,700 volunteers who provide constructive activities in prison.
Release to Work allows minimum security prisoners who are assessed as suitable to engage in paid employment in the community. An average of 85 prisoners per day take part in this activity.