Corrective Services response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Frequently Asked Questions

Information about how the Department is minimising the risk of COVID-19 entering the custodial estate, keeping people in our care and our staff safe. 

People in our care

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When will social visits resume?

Social visits will remain suspended until it is safe for this restriction to be lifted.

We understand that other restrictions in WA are being relaxed, however in order to protect the vulnerable people in our care and our staff, Corrective Services will continue to uphold restrictions until further notice.

Updates will continue to be posted on this page, including when social visits resume.

What about e-visits?

Corrective Services has prioritised the roll out of E-visits around the State to ensure adults and young people in custody can maintain strong connections with family and friends.

All custodial facilities are expected to have access to more E-visit and Skype kiosks by mid-June.

Are there any COVID-19 cases in the WA custodial estate?

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any Western Australian prison or the Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

How are you preventing the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and the detention centre?

We are taking steps to minimise the risk of the virus entering the custodial estate. Non-essential movement in and out of facilities has been restricted. Social visits have been suspended and prisoners performing community work redeployed to activities that can be undertaken within the prison estate.

All new prisoners and detainees are initially assessed by staff in accordance with the Health Department’s guidelines. They are later medically screened by health workers and, if required, can be isolated and tested for COVID-19.

We can quickly isolate prisoners or detainees who display COVID-19 symptoms and identify any people who have been in contact with them. These measures have been well practised when measles and influenza has been prevalent.

At the gatehouse, we now use thermometers to check if anyone has a fever which can be an indicator that someone is unwell. This is another level of assurance. Staff have been specially trained to use personal protective equipment when they are near anyone at risk to prevent the spread of infection.

Will my family member be safe during the COVID-19 outbreak?

While some routines have been adapted due to COVID-19, we are continuing to provide essential services for those in custody including health care, access to exercise and time outside as appropriate.

We’re encouraging social distancing where practical, providing additional cleaning materials for hand hygiene and reinforcing safe cough and sneeze practices. In addition, a strong, continuous regime of cleaning has been established in all facilities with a particular focus on high-traffic areas including points of entry.

Custodial operations are under constant review, and further adjustments can be made as the situation evolves.

What about access to health care?

Additional measures are in place to protect prisoners with other health conditions and Departmental doctors and nurses continue to provide high quality care as required.

Any prisoners or detainees considered vulnerable to the virus have been identified to ensure we are able to respond rapidly to any illness.

Protection of the population as a whole, and system-wide preventative measures are in place to minimise the risks posed to these groups by COVID-19.

What plans are in place if someone in a custodial facility has, or is suspected of having, COVID-19?

Each facility has its own operational plan in place to ensure that they are prepared to receive a prisoner or detainee who has, or is suspected of having, COVID-19.

Anyone who presents with symptoms can be isolated from the mainstream population and be cared for appropriately by staff and health care professionals.

If we have concern that someone may be infected with the virus, they will be immediately isolated, receive medical attention and can be tested for COVID-19.

Anyone who has had close contact with that person can also be isolated as required.

What about the risk from new prisoners/detainees coming into the system?

Every new admission is assessed. If they are unwell, they are managed in a specific way. They are kept outside the normal admission unit to minimise the risk of transmission. They are isolated, and will undergo a COVID-19 test and only join the population once they return a negative test result and receive medical clearance.

Are there enough beds if you need to isolate people in the custodial estate?

The WA prison estate has the capacity to manage the arrival of prisoners or detainees who may have been exposed to infectious diseases.

Our staff are very experienced in managing the range of issues which impact prisoner placement within cells, units and across the estate as a whole.

What about the risk from staff bringing the virus into the prison or detention centre?

Staff members at risk of contracting COVID-19 from travel or contact with a known person infected with the virus are self-isolating for two weeks in accordance with Health Department guidelines.

Any staff member who is unwell is also taking precautions to self-isolate under medical advice.

Temperature testing has been introduced at gatehouses to provide another level of assurance. Staff are also required to maintain good hand hygiene and follow social distancing where practical.

What is being done to keep prisons and the detention centre clean?

Health guidelines recommend maintaining good hand hygiene and social distancing where practical to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Access to hand sanitiser and soap has been increased and we have initiated extra cleaning in all custodial facilities.

A strong, continuous regime of cleaning has been established with a particular focus on high-traffic areas, including points of entry. Special teams have been appointed to focus on cleaning those areas where prisoners and detainees gather.

Information about hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette has been provided to staff and prisoners/detainees alike.

Will prisoners/detainees still have access to lawyers? What about court hearings?

Yes, prisoners and detainees still have access to their lawyers. All professional visitors are encouraged to use phone or alternative contact arrangements, such as Skype, to speak with their clients. Where face-to-face contact is required, these meetings take place under strict social distancing measures.

Courts are an essential service and are continuing to operate. Wherever possible, appearances by prisoners or detainees will be by video or audio link unless the presiding judicial officer orders otherwise.

Will changes implemented under COVID-19 affect parole applications?

The WA Prisoners Review Board is an independent statutory body and when considering prisoners for parole will consider specific details including the work a prisoner has done in prison and the duties it involved.

The Commissioner for Corrective Services has written to the Board to detail the  measures we have implemented which are affecting prisoners, including the suspension of community work, for consideration in any future decisions.

Will people who are due to be released still be released?

Prisoners and detainees who are due to be released will still be released. However, it is important we don’t compromise the health, safety and wellbeing of anyone who is being released, our staff or the wider community.

We will work with these people to ensure that they have pre-release plans in place, including making sure they have safe accommodation options that allow them to perform social distancing in line with Government advice.

If someone is due for release and presents with flu-like symptoms or has tested positive to COVID-19, we will develop a transition and reintegration plan, which may include identifying a place for self-isolation.

For prisoners or detainees who are due to be released and are being held outside of the zone that they normally reside in, arrangements will be made by the facility to ensure they are able to return home.

What programs will continue in prison and Banksia Hill Detention Centre?

Adult minimum security prisoners who normally undertake work in the community will be redeployed to activities that can be conducted within the prison estate.

In the Detention Centre, young people still have access to a number of recreational activities.

Prisoners and detainees are encouraged to take advantage of a wide range of educational opportunities. Programs are being run with new protective measures in place.

For adult prisoners additional self-paced learning is also available and can be completed in their quarters with subjects like horticulture, maths and grammar.

To reduce the risk of infection, a range of activities have been suspended such as contact team sports. Instead, we have arranged for alternative options such as skills training and low risk activities in the open air.

Can I still visit my family member or friend in prison or Banksia Hill Detention Centre?

Not at the moment. Social visits have been suspended to minimise the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted into the custodial estate. We understand that contact is extremely important for prisoners and detainees, especially during this stressful time, and have arranged for other options to be provided.

Social visits will recommence when it is safe to do so in the custodial environment.

How can people in custody stay in touch with loved ones during the suspension of social visits?

We are doing all that we can to continue facilitating contact with family and friends. Prisoners and detainees have been given access to free phone calls, and can also send more letters for free.

We have also been working to give all people in custody greater access to Skype and E-visits.

What about e-visits?

Since social visits were suspended, we have been working hard to increase access to Skype and other e-visits. This has been a challenge as this technology is also being accessed for court appearances and legal visits.

Many prisons and the detention centre have implemented greater access to e-visits already, and we are on track to have another four prisons running visits by web cam or Skype by 1 May 2020.

E-visits will be rolled out across the State as equipment becomes available.

What about depositing money?

While face-to-face social visits are suspended, money will need to be deposited via one of the non-contact options available.

All prisons and Banksia Hill Detention Centre can accept a money order sent to their postal address. Ensure that the order is clearly addressed to the prisoner or detainee.

For the addresses and more information, refer to Money Deposits below.

Writing to a prisoner

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You can keep in touch with a prisoner by writing to them at the prison’s postal address. Select the relevant prison from the list below to find the details:

Use your friend or family member's name in the address to ensure that it goes to the right person.

Sentenced prisoners will be able to send additional mail at no charge during the pandemic.

Please note: to uphold the safety and security of the prison most letters sent to and from prison are checked by prison staff to ensure they don’t contain contraband.

Telephone calls

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Prisoners cannot receive phone calls, but they can choose to call you using the prison phones.

During the COVID-19 crisis, all prisoners and detainees have access to free telephone calls.

Please note: your number will need to be on the approved telephone contact list before you can be called. Phone calls to family and friends will be recorded.

Money Deposits

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Until further notice money will need to be deposited via one of the non-contact options available.

All prisons and Banksia Hill Detention Centre can accept a money order sent to their postal address. Ensure that the order is clearly addressed to the prisoner or detainee. The addresses are available in the links below.

Please note: Restrictions to the amount that can be sent are in place for some prisons and the detention centre, for more information refer to the individual facility below:

Our staff

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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 have been following Government guidelines to keep our staff and prisoners/detainees safe from COVID-19. Limiting movements in and out of custodial facilities is a key factor in preventing infection.

Since the State of Emergency was declared and we took the necessary step to suspend social visits, we have been very careful to assess all others coming into prisons and the detention centre.

This assessment applied to new prisoners/detainees, staff, official and legal visitors, and contractors. At the gatehouse, we now use thermometers as another level of assurance.

Staff have been specially trained to use personal protective equipment when they are near anyone at risk to prevent the spread of infection.

If a staff member presents as unwell they follow medical advice and may be tested for COVID-19.

Where contact with an unwell prisoner is necessary, staff follow Government guidelines and wear the personal protective equipment provided by the Department.

Superintendents and staff are provided with regular briefings to ensure they are up to date with the latest actions and directives to keep facilities safe.

A strong, continuous regime of cleaning has been established across facilities with a particular focus on high-traffic areas including points of entry. Staff are also following Government guidelines on hand hygiene and practising social distancing where practical.

How are staff working in Adult Community Corrections and Youth Justice Centres being supported to stay safe?

Staff monitoring adults and young people in the community are being reminded that anyone presenting with flu-like symptoms at any Centre should be directed to seek medical attention and asked to leave the facility. Case managers can contact unwell offenders to make alternative arrangements to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

In line with Government advice Centres are undergoing additional cleaning, with a particular focus on high traffic areas. Extra hand sanitiser and soap is being provided along with educational materials about hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette and social distancing is being practiced in waiting and meeting rooms.

Staff conducting home visits are recommended to make contact to determine if anyone at the premises is unwell, where necessary they can be provided personal protective equipment to wear during the visit.

Programs are continuing, however if an offender presents with flu-like symptoms they should be sent home and advised to seek medical attention. Offenders will not be allowed to recommence the program until they are medically cleared for the safety of staff, other offenders and the wider community.

Page reviewed 21 May 2020
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