Greg Barns says the overcrowded Risdon Prison could suffer a coronavirus outbreak, with the deaths of numerous inmates. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Greg Barns says the overcrowded Risdon Prison could suffer a coronavirus outbreak, with the deaths of numerous inmates. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Home detention plea for prisoners

PRISONER advocate Greg Barns has called for elderly and non-violent Risdon Prison inmates to be moved into home detention to avoid a coronavirus outbreak and jailhouse deaths.

With the prison already overcrowded, Mr Barns said it was "unconscionable" in the current health crisis to leave inmates with no room to isolate, or to drive multiple prisoners in vans from the Hobart Reception Centre to court hearings.

The Prisoners Legal Services chair said programs were already in place in the US to streamline early release or alternative custody arrangements, given the COVID-19 crisis, with minimal need for processing through the courts.

 

Prisoners Legal Services chair Greg Barns. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN
Prisoners Legal Services chair Greg Barns. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN

 

Mr Barns said it was time for the Director of Public Prosecutions to sit down with lawyers and the Tasmania Prison Service to work out which prisoners could be moved into home detention.

"You've got a toxic combination. Prison programs are going to stop, visits are going to cease," he said.

"You've already got overcrowding and you've already got days and months of lockdown. And now you've got coronavirus.

"People will die in there, older prisoners will die.

"While some in the community couldn't care less, it is a problem. It's a high-risk area because you've got a lot of people in the same space.

"The more prisoners you have, the more likely it is you're going to have an outbreak."

 

Attorney-General Elise Archer. Picture: RICHARD JUPE
Attorney-General Elise Archer. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

 

But Attorney-General Elise Archer said Mr Barns's suggestion wasn't currently being considered.

"The complexities of the legislation involved in sentencing prisoners would require significant reform for prisoners already sentenced to jail to be moved to home detention orders," she said yesterday.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said Risdon Prison was still accepting visitors, but assessing them for symptoms first.

"The Tasmania Prison Service has developed plans to ensure it can manage any con-firmed cases of novel coronavirus, including the ability to isolate confirmed cases," they said.

Originally published as Home detention plea for prisoners



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