Protective quarantine units established as a precaution

Corrections Victoria has established protective quarantine units across five prisons as a further preventive measure against the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

From Saturday, 28 March 2020 until further notice, all prisoners coming into the Victorian prison system will be required to spend 14 days in a protective quarantine unit.

The protective quarantine units have been established at all prisons that receive new prisoners into custody – Melbourne Assessment Prison, Metropolitan Remand Centre, Port Phillip Prison, Ravenhall Correctional Centre and Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.

Prisoners in these units will be supported with access to in-cell phone calls, video-based visits, books, education material, printed exercise routines and TVs.Prison and health staff, including Aboriginal Liaison Officers and specialist mental health services, will regularly check in and monitor the health and wellbeing of all prisoners, including vulnerable and high-risk people.

Corrections Commissioner Emma Cassar said the decision is necessary to ensure all appropriate steps are being taken to prevent and manage the evolving risk of the virus to the prison system and the safety of staff and prisoners.

“This measure applies to people who have been out in the community these past few weeks and that bring that exposure risk with them into custody.”

“We are working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, our staff, prisoners and all relevant authorities to ensure we’re taking the measures needed to protect everyone’s health.”

The new measure does not apply to existing prisoners who are currently accommodated or who are transferred to the five prisons.

Existing prevention and management measures, including quarantine protocols, remain in place across the prison system for all other prisoners.

There are currently no confirmed cases of the virus within the Victorian prison system, and Corrections Victoria is continually reassessing its preventative and management measures across the prison system.

Statement on personal visits to prisons

Personal visits to adult correctional facilities to be suspended Australia-wide.

Corrective services across Australia have been constantly reviewing measures to prevent and manage the Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk in prisons.

Following the National Cabinet Meeting on Friday, 20 March 2020, a joint decision has been made to suspend all personal visits to adult correctional facilities across Australia over the coming weeks. 

Individual jurisdictions will decide when the new measure will be introduced based on their operational needs, with all Victorian public and private prisons to suspend visits from Saturday, 21 March 2020. 

This decision has not been made lightly and responds to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation and state and federal health measures.

We understand the importance of family and community connections to both the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners, and to families and friends.

Which is why we are increasing phone access for prisoners where possible and appropriate, and are also encouraging them to write letters.

Alternative communication measures will be implemented, including trialling video calls to ensure that prisoners their families and friends maintain face-to-face contact.

The health, safety and security of the entire community, including our staff, prisoners and visitors, remains our top priority. 

Visits will recommence as soon as it is safe to do so, and we will continue to follow the advice of the Chief Health Officer, and federal and state authorities.

We will continue to keep prisoners and visitors updated.

Contacting a prisoner

The health and safety of all prisoners, staff and the community remain our top priority. 

From Saturday 21 March 2020, Corrections Victoria is suspending all personal visits to adult prisons.

This affects all public and private adult prisons, including the Judy Lazarus Transitional Centre.

While personal visits are suspended, prisoners will have increased access to phone calls. Prisoners and visitors are also encouraged to write letters. 

Personal visits will resume as soon as it’s safe to do so, and we will keep prisoners and visitors updated. 

The importance of visits and community connections for the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners, and for friends and family members is well understood. Video calls are now available at most prisons - see the Contacting a prisoner page for more information.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency is an evolving situation and this preventative measure will be reviewed on a daily basis.

For more information on how to contact a prisoner via phone, video or mail go to the Contacting a prisoner page.

If you have any urgent concerns – please contact the prison or call 03 8684 6600.

Email a prisoner

As prisoners do not have access to the internet, you cannot communicate with them via online chat or social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter. The Email a Prisoner service is being introduced to allow family and friends with access to the internet a faster and cheaper way of communicating with family and friends.   

Email a Prisoner is available to family and friends of all prisoners.

The steps below provide instructions on how to use Email a Prisoner:

  1. Go to www.emailaprisoner.com.au (External link)
  2. Select the button “sign up”
  3. You will be required to enter your details, along with your bank details. You will be prompted to choose one of the two security checks:
    • An activation link and security code will be sent to both your email address and your residential address. You must respond to both (this takes approximately a week).
    • An activation link and code is sent to your email and you are required to provide two forms of verified identification to UniLink.

You are required to complete the activation steps prior to sending emails.

  1. Once the above is completed you select the prison location and enter the prisoner’s details (first name, surname and CRN). You are then provided with two options:
    • Send an email only
    • Send an email and request a reply.
  2. You can then write your message and have the option of uploading up to four photographs.
  3. The prisoner will be provided with the letter and can respond either via your response form (which will be scanned and sent back to you), letter through Australia Post or on the phone.

Emails will be provided to the prisoner in 2 business days.

Cost

Currently Email a Prisoner is the most cost-effective way for family and friends to send a message to prisoners. It costs $0.90 to send a message and $0.75 to request a reply. In comparison it costs $1.10 to send a letter.

It costs an additional $0.65 per photo uploaded and sent via Email a Prisoner. As such it is more cost effective to send photos via letter.

Prisoner health and support 

While there have been changes around personal visits, health and other support services will continue to operate across the prison system. Arrangements are being made to ensure that these services can continue.

Prisoners are regularly updated about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and informed of the changes that impact them. 

All prisoners receive a medical screening by a general practitioner upon entering prison custody, which includes an assessment for any risk of self-harm or suicide.

As with the broader community, this situation may cause stress for some prisoners. Prisoners continue to have access a range of mental health supports. They are also encouraged to exercise and eat a healthy diet.

Prisoners can also access medical and psychiatric care throughout their imprisonment. 

We are also increasing access to phone calls and encouraging prisoners to continue writing to their family and friends, given the importance of these connections. 

If you are concerned about a prisoner’s mental health, please telephone the prison and ask to speak to a manager about your concerns or call 03 8684 6600. Contact information for each prison is available on this page

Staff and prisoner safety

Corrective services across Australia have been reviewing measures to prevent and manage the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on a daily basis. 

Everyone plays an important role in stopping the spread of the virus, and decisions are being made with the latest medical advice and state and federal measures in mind.

Sending money to prisoners

Money for prisoners can no longer be dropped off at prisons. To send money to prisoners, you can:

Prisoners can receive up to $140 per month. You will need to be on the prisoner’s visit list to be able to send money. You must also include the prisoner’s details as well as your own.

Instructions for using Secure Payment Services

  1. Go to www.securepaymentservices.com.au (External link)
  2. Select the button “sign up”
  3. You will be required to enter your details, along with your bank details. You will be prompted to choose one of the two security checks:
    • An activation link and security code will be sent to both your email address and your residential address. You must respond to both (this takes approximately a week).
    • An activation link and code is sent to your email and you are required to provide two forms of verified identification to UniLink.

You are required to complete the activation steps prior to initiating a transaction.

  1. Once the above is completed you select the prison location and enter the prisoner's details (first name, surname and CRN). You select an amount and transfer money directly to the prison location. If you are not on the prisoners visit list your transfer will be returned to you.

Funds will be available to the prisoner the following business day.

Cost

Currently SPS is the most cost-effective way for family and friends (depositors) to transfer funds. Each transfer incurs a 3% processing fee, a 0.77% card payment fee and a processing fee of $0.94. For example, a $10 transaction would incur an additional fee of $1.32 (total transaction cost for the depositor of $11.32). In comparison a money order would cost a total of $12.10.

Sending personal property to prisoners

At this point in time, property cannot be dropped off at prisons. Prisons will ensure that prisoners have sufficient clothing. 

Please visit the prison page for detailed information about individual prisons or contact the prison for further information.

The latest on Coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the Department of Health and Human Services website (External link).