There are growing calls for selected lower-risk prisoners to be released from Victoria’s prisons after they were locked down yesterday when a prison officer at one facility tested positive.
The official, who works for private correctional services provider GEO at the Ravenhall Correctional Centre in the west of Melbourne, has been in self-isolation since 16 July.
But five additional facilities have been placed in lockdown while officials determine if he had contact with anyone from those prisons.
Apart from Ravenhall, the others are Hopkins Correctional Centre, Langi Kal Kal Prison, Barwon Prison, Fulham and Loddon.
Measures are being taken and contacts traced
The Guardian Australia newspaper reports that it was told by the Victoria justice department that “measures are being taken in line with Corrections Victoria’s coronavirus management plans”.
The department said contact tracing was underway and that impacted staff and prisoners were being notified. The prisons will also be thoroughly cleaned.
There have also been coronavirus-related incidents at other prisons in the state in recent weeks.
Urgent calls for the release of selected prisoners
Now there are urgent calls from various groups to release suitable prisoners in order to reduce the infection risk within prisons.
“The need to release selected prisoners is even more urgent now,” said Greg Barns of the Australian Lawyers Alliance. “People in prison are at extreme risk of contracting the virus simply because they are detained,” he told Guardian Australia.
“Non-violent prisoners, prisoners who are on remand simply because they have no home address, and vulnerable prisoners such as those over 65 should be released now … the Victorian government should already have done this,” he said.
Call to release Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Similarly, the Victorian government is being urged to release Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates.
“COVID-19 positive prison officers who move in and out of prisons will place both people in prison and the wider community at risk,” said National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services co-chair Nerita Waight in a statement.