Welcome to our COVID-19 FAQs page. We'll try to answer all your questions here.
Are there any COVID-19 cases in New Zealand prisons?
We currently have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of our prisons, and we’re working hard to keep it that way. Any time a prisoner has displayed flu-like symptoms we have isolated them as a precaution and taken the advice of our Health Services staff and the Ministry of Health.
How are you preventing the spread of COVID-19 in prisons?
We are continuing to take steps to prevent the virus spreading into any of our sites. We are using thermal cameras to take the temperature of everyone arriving at prisons. A high temperature can indicate COVID-19 infection.
Private visits are resuming with temperature checks, fewer people in each session, and requirements to use facemasks, hand sanitiser and physical distancing.
Restrictions also apply as we gradually resume non-essential industries such as textiles and carpentry, and face-to-face meetings between people in prison and staff such as Case Managers.
We continue to keep all new prisoners separate from the existing prison population for the first 14 days to ensure that new arrivals do not have COVID-19.
In prison we can quickly isolate prisoners who we think may have COVID-19 and identify any people who have been in contact with them.
Will my family member be safe during the COVID-19 Alert Level 2?
We’re doing everything we can to keep people safe. At every COVID-19 alert level we’ll continue providing healthcare through our nurses (with doctors able to consult by phone if needed), all meals, laundry, and security. Our staff will always be there to ensure everyone’s safety.
We’re encouraging people in prison to keep 2 metres apart wherever possible, wash their hands frequently, cough and sneeze into their elbow, discard used tissues, talk to staff if they are unwell and carry out additional cleaning to keep their cells hygienic.
Prisoners over 70 years old and those who are vulnerable due to underlying health conditions have been identified and work is ongoing to ensure their wellbeing.
Prison Directors and Regional Commissioners have advised that staff working in prisons should be wearing gloves and masks at all times.
What plans are in place if someone in prison gets COVID-19?
If we think anyone in prison may have COVID-19, we will isolate them immediately. Our nurses will treat any symptoms they have, and we will arrange for them to be tested for COVID-19. Anyone else who has had close contact with that person (within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) will also be isolated – this includes staff and prisoners.
Can I visit my family member in prison at Alert Level 2?
Yes. We are allowing visits to our prison sites, all with added safety measures. You can read more on the Visits page.
Keep reading to see other ways you can keep in touch with your family member or friend in prison.
What other ways can I keep in touch with my family member in prison?
We know it’s important to keep in contact with your family member in prison. There are several ways you can do this.
Every prisoner is being given a $5 phonecard each week so they can choose to call you if you are on their contact list. We have increased the number of phones available in residential units.
You can send an email to the prison and staff will print it and give it to your family member. Please see our list of prison email addresses and instructions on how to email someone in prison.
We are still providing people in prison with writing paper, envelopes and stamps so they can send letters as usual, and you can still write to a person in prison as you usually would.
Video calling is also being made available for approved visitors.
Will people who are due to be released still be released during Alert Level 2?
People who are due to be released in the coming weeks will be released. It’s important to us that we don’t compromise the health, safety and wellbeing of anyone who is being released, our staff, or our wider communities. We are working with these people to make sure they have pre-release plans in place that comply with the Alert Level 2 restrictions. This includes making sure they have safe accommodation options.
On release from prison, a person may be required to comply with conditions imposed by the Courts or New Zealand Parole Board and their compliance with these conditions will continue to be closely monitored by Community Corrections.
What programmes will continue in prison?
Following the move to Alert Level 2, we are reintroducing more rehabilitation interventions for people in prison. 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 will resume where we can ensure the health and safety of everyone involved and that physical distancing can be maintained.
Prisoners will be advised that activities will resume when it is safe to do so.
Are there enough beds if you need to isolate people?
Our staff are extremely experienced in managing a range of issues which impact which units or cells we place prisoners in, including gang tension and the association of co-offenders. Prisoner placements, including anyone who requires isolation, can be managed across units within each prison site, as well as across the prison network as a whole.
What access do prisoners have to lawyers under Level 2?
Face to-face visits are resuming (with limits) to guard against COVID-19, people in prison can still speak to their lawyer over the phone. Lawyers can also email their clients.
In the community
I’m serving a community work sentence. What do the Alert Level 2 restrictions mean for me?
At Level 2 we are re-starting some community work activities where it’s possible to do these safely (e.g. where it’s possible to maintain social distancing).
Some community work activities will remain suspended for now.
If you are serving a sentence of community work, your Probation Officer will contact you to explain what this means for you.
Do I have to start reporting in again to my Community Corrections site?
Maybe. Some people will have to start reporting in again, but some will continue to report in by phone and some will continue to receive home visits.
Your Probation Officer will let you know if you need to start reporting in again.
Will my Probation Officer call me?
Yes, they’ll phone you when they need to. They’re continuing to monitor people serving sentences and orders in the community.
If you’re unsure about anything to do with your sentence or order at Level 2 you can call them.
For my sentence I was supposed to go to a programme – will that start up again at Level 2?
Some programmes delivered face to face are starting up again if it’s safe to run them (e.g. where it’s possible to maintain social distancing).
Some programmes that have continued over the phone will continue in this way for now. And some programmes will remain suspended for now.
Your Probation Officer will let you know if anything has changed for you at Level 2.
What happens if my tracker breaks?
All electronic monitoring in the community will continue as usual, including the maintenance, installation or removal of monitoring equipment. Contact your Probation Officer, or after hours you can call the electronic monitoring call centre on 0800 555 677.
I’m on EM Bail. Am I allowed to go out during Alert Level 2?
This depends on your bail conditions.
If you are unsure whether your bail conditions allow this, please contact the EM Bail team on 0800 EM BAIL (0800 362 245).
What am I allowed to do while we are at COVID-19 Alert Level 2?
At Level 2, most New Zealanders will have more freedom of movement, but we still have to play it safe because COVID-19 is still out there. For information about what is permitted for most people during Alert Level 2, please visit https://covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/alert-level-2/
However, please remember that if you are serving a sentence or order in the community, you still need to follow the conditions of your sentence or order.
If you’re unsure what these are, please contact your Probation Officer.
How do I get more information about COVID-19 and the support available?
The Government is providing extra support to people who have lost their job or are being paid less than usual because of the COVID-19 crisis. If you or your family need help, please call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 to see what assistance is available. More information is available here.
How are staff working in prisons being supported to stay safe?
The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, their families and our wider communities is paramount during this time.
We are taking steps to prevent the virus spreading into any of our sites. All private and volunteer visits, release to work activities and other non-essential movements in and out of all prison sites are suspended. We’ve also suspended non-essential industries such as textiles and carpentry, and face-to-face meetings between people in prison and staff such as Case Managers.
Managers have been asked to carry out daily briefings with their staff on the steps that are in place to ensure their safety. Prison Directors and Regional Commissioners have been advised that staff working in prisons should be wearing gloves and masks at all times, with additional enhanced PPE (eye protection and a gown/apron) when having close contact with anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. We have also provided advice to staff in relation to the safe and correct use of this PPE.
Staff and prisoners are also practicing physical distancing, new cleaning protocols have been implemented across the entire prison estate, and hand hygiene (washing and sanitiser) is being actively promoted.
How are staff working in Community Corrections being supported to stay safe?
Wherever possible our Community Corrections staff are being supported to work remotely.
Community Work has been suspended until further notice. Our team’s important work with people serving sentences and orders in the community continues, but contact is now being done in most cases by telephone.
Where face-to-face contact or a home visit is essential, our staff are being provided with gloves, face masks and hand sanitiser as well as clear guidance on correct use. All our usual staff safety processes for home visits still apply.
Reintegration Service Providers
Rehabilitation, reintegration and housing and related social service providers are playing a vital role by supporting people under the management and care of Corrections to stay safe throughout all alert levels. It is a priority for Corrections to continue to support you and your staff to deliver these essential services. The questions and answers below will guide your service provision in this challenging environment. We will update them as new information and processes emerge.
Our management of contracts and relationships will remain in place throughout all alert levels– if you have further questions or need help please contact your contract manager as usual.
What COVID -19 processes are in place to prepare contracted providers prior to entering prisons for programmes and pre-assessments?
- When you enter the prison, everyone will be scanned by a thermal imaging camera – this allows us to identify if you have a higher than normal body temperature.
- We will be collecting contact details to visitors at all sites (prison and community) to assist in contact tracing if needed.
- If your visit includes prisoner facing activity, you will be provided with PPE (masks) for your own safety as well as that of the person you are visiting.
- You will need to practise social distancing and all activities will be planned and conducted to meet the requirement of a minimum of 1 metre physical distancing.
What guidelines are in place to ensure COVID-19 health and safety are adhered to for contracted providers:
- delivering at offsite venues
- transporting clients to offsite venues
- engaging with Corrections staff at Probation site
The provider must ensure H&S guidelines are adhered to when delivering programmes at, and transporting clients to, offsite venues. Corrections staff have strict protocols which will be explained on arrival. This includes measures such as completing a contact tracing register, PPE options, and maintaining a physical distance.
What information does Corrections require from providers if there is a suspected case of COVID-19 with your staff or people under the Department’s management and care?
You will need to provide daily updates about arrangements made to manage the situation. This should include information such as whether Healthline has been contacted, whether the person been tested for COVID-19 and what steps have been taken to self-isolate.
How is Corrections working with providers to support people who are released during Alert Level 2?
The health, safety and wellbeing of those being released, our staff, and our wider communities is our priority. Corrections is reviewing all pre-release plans to ensure suitable support, options and monitoring and Alert Level 2 restrictions compliance is in place. If you are a provider supporting reintegration services, your contract manager or a case manager will talk to you to ensure these requirements are met in each person’s pre-release plan. Our efforts are focussed on ensuring that people required to be released from prison have the best pre-release plans, which includes safe accommodation options that will allow them to comply with the Alert Level 2 restrictions and be supported at this difficult time.
How will providers supporting people’s releases complete assessments during Alert Level 2?
Visits to prison by external providers and face-to-face assessments may resume under certain conditions.
What guidelines are in place for rooms used for delivery to ensure COVID-19 health and safety are adhered to for contracted providers?
To keep staff, providers and the people in our care healthy and safe in prison and in the community, good hygiene practices is key. In addition, we have enhanced cleaning processes between activities (for example in programme rooms between programme group activity) and for frequently touched equipment (e.g. gym equipment, desks, chairs).
What access do providers have to AVL for their staff who will continue to work remotely?
This will be by local arrangement between the provider and the prison or community site and will depend on the site’s AVL capacity (noting the Lawyers, Courts and Parole Boards are primary AVL users at the moment).
What are the lockdown hours for each site?
Lockdown hours vary from site to site and each unit, or parts of it, can be locked down at different times throughout the day to accommodate multiple regimes that may be running.
Will people being released be screened for COVID-19 prior to release?
People being released are not routinely tested for COVID-19. Staff at all Corrections sites are vigilant regarding any illness at this time. Prisons are a highly controlled environment and health and medical support is provided to people and any necessary precautions taken for isolation. Before individuals are transferred into our custody, Corrections screens their health. This screening includes checking for the COVID-19 coronavirus symptoms.
How is transportation arranged for people being released?
Whānau can come to prisons to transport people released during Alert Level 2.. If people do not have anyone to pick them up and no other option is available, we may contact a provider who is able to help the person get to their address. We have some Community Corrections staff in some locations supporting with transport also.
How do people report to their probation officer during Alert Level 2?
Community Corrections sites have reopened and some people will resume reporting in again, while others will continue to report in by phone.
Please support people to contact Community Corrections so they know if they need to report in at a Community Corrections site.
How is suitable accommodation being organised for people released during Alert Level 2?
Our probation officers, regional accommodation managers, case managers and national office staff in Wellington are working closely with providers and other government departments including the Ministry of Social Development to identify suitable accommodation options for release. This includes identifying whether any other occupants in the house may have risk factors that relate to COVID-19. This also includes emergency accommodation options for people who have no suitable address upon release.
Who is responsible for providing Emergency accommodation for people under Corrections care and management during Alert Level 2?
People under the management of Corrections who are already in the community who have an emergency accommodation need will be picked up by MSD under the usual processes. However, Corrections will provide emergency accommodation solutions for those people who are released from prison during Alert Level 2.
How do providers apply Ministry of Health COVID-19 advice in Supported Accommodation?
Please refer to and apply the Ministry’s guidance in their Information for providers of housing Support.pdf
How should service providers provide reports to Corrections during Alert Level 2?
Please report as per normal using the GSW reporting portal or templates. If you have any practical difficulties completing your monthly reports, i.e. don’t have access to all reporting information while some of your staff members working from home, please contact your contract manager in the first instance.
What is the Steps to Freedom grant process during Alert Level 2?
The business as usual process for people accessing their Steps to Freedom by cheque or by form can resume at Alert Level 2.
What new financial assistance processes can people being released from prison expect?
- A Work and Income payment card. This will allow Work and Income to deposit any hardship assistance the person is entitled to. To activate the Work and Income payment card the individual must call Work and Income on 0800 559 009 or apply online (Corrections staff will support this when possible).
- If eligible for Steps to Freedom, individuals will be given their $350 Steps to Freedom grant.
- A basic pre-paid mobile phone with credit loaded if they do not have access to a telephone post-release. The delivery date for these phones is still to be confirmed.
How will payment to providers be managed during Alert Level 2?
Please be assured that throughout this period and until 30 June 2020, we will continue to pay you regardless of your funding model or level of service delivery. We will communicate with you when further information becomes available.
What should providers advise about New Zealand Parole Board and Courts operating under Alert Level 2?
Please advise people the New Zealand Parole Board and Courts are operating during Alert Level 2, with some changes:
How courts are operating during Alert Level 2.
How the New Zealand Parole Board is operating during Alert Level 2.
What should providers do and advise people about physical distancing?
Please refer people to the guidance on the government website about COVID-19 physical distancing
Who should service providers contact with any further questions?
Any queries should be directed to your usual contract manager.
Last updated: 19 May 2020 12:03pm