The news of a growing COVID outbreak in Parklea Prison where at least 31 prisoners have tested positive shows we the need for the urgent release of non-violent offenders from the state’s overcrowded prison system. Law reform groups, prisoner reform groups and First Nations activists have been calling for this policy response since the start of the pandemic. Now with Delta spreading among the community the need for decisive action to save lives is more urgent than ever.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said, “Overcrowded prisons during a pandemic are not just a threat to inmates and staff, they present a very real danger to the broader public when uncontrollable outbreaks overwhelm the hospital system.
“The Parliament gave the Attorney General and the Commissioner for Corrective Services the authority to allow the urgent release of non-violent prisoners to save lives.
“Now that COVID is spreading among the community and entering prisons, every day we continue business as usual with overcrowded prisons, the chances of a deadly outbreak grows.
“Western NSW has already seen how COVID can spread from a prison into the community and the scale of the outbreak in Parklea must be met with immediate action.”
“With such a large proportion of the prison population being First Nations people, passively waiting for COVID to spread will inevitably increase the racist impact of the criminal justice system.
“Reducing overcrowding and increasing social distancing in prisons can save lives, but it will only happen if courts and the prison authorities are given the power and autonomy to make these decisions.
“Any release of non-violent offenders must be accompanied by post release monitoring, wrap around support and safe accommodation.
“We can and must better balance the traditional demands of the criminal justice system with public health outcomes and basic human rights
“The Criminal Justice System in Australia can impose a prison sentence, but this must not become a death sentence,” Shoebridge said.
Prison officers are also waiting to get vaccinated as their efforts to keep NSW jails Covid-19 free are starting to get seriously tested.
Story Source: Materials provided by The Greens. Note: Content may have been edited for style and length.