Second open letter calling for immediate action to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the Australian criminal justice system
ALHR has joined with 400 individuals and 11 organisations, in signing onto a second open letter calling for immediate action to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the Australian criminal justice system, especially prisons and youth detention centres.
The letter seeks immediate action to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the Australian criminal justice system, especially prisons and youth detention centres. This requires INFORMATION, INDEPENDENT MONITORING AND RELEASE.
The national open letter has been produced in consultation with and with contributions from a range of national stakeholders, including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) and Keeping Women Out of Prison Coalition (KWOOP).
ALHR made contributions to the ANNEXURE to the letter which summarises the human rights and community protection issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to people in Australian prisons and youth detention centres (YDC).
The letter makes FIVE calls to decision-makers in criminal and penal justice:
- Programs of testing, diagnosis and public health measures (including the provision of personal protective equipment) to be immediately implemented in all prisons and YDC.
- Hospitalisation/urgent medical treatment of any person in prison or YDC (or police custody) who has COVID-19 symptoms. Families and ATSILS/Custody Notification Service (CNS) to be immediately notified of the symptoms, hospitalisation and treatment.
- Ongoing and publicly available information on the COVID-19 testing, diagnosis and public health measures in prisons and YDC (without compromising private health information). This should particularly be made available to people in prison, their families, lawyers and the courts (to enable informed bail and sentencing decisions).
- Independent monitoring by health and criminal justice experts of COVID-19 responses across prisons and YDC.
- The current information is that there is a risk to life and health in prisons and YDC, which in turn creates risks for the wider community. This requires every State and Territory to legislate for immediate release, where it is safe to do so. Priorities for release should be:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – consistently identified as one of the most vulnerable groups.
- The vulnerable, including the elderly; peoples who are victims of domestic violence, coercive control and human trafficking; and those with additional health issues such as immunosuppression, respiratory illness and hypertension, addiction and/or mental health.
- Those serving sentences of less than 6 months or with 6 months or less remaining.
- Unsentenced people in prison.
You can read the full open letter and accompanying annexure here