In light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, Liberty Victoria supports calls from more than 370 lawyers, academics and advocates to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the Australian criminal justice system, especially prisons and youth detention centres (see https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-20/calls-for-australian-prisoners-to-be-released-due-to-coronavirus/12074182).
Many Victorian prisons are already exceeding their capacity. Due to cramped conditions, there is a real risk that prisons will become coronavirus hotspots leading to the rapid spread of infection and putting in danger the lives of prisoners, prison staff and the wider community. Rapid decarceration is urgently needed to curb the risk to our community. Liberty Victoria supports the approach taken in other jurisdictions around the world where authorities have released those in jail for summary offences, the elderly, the unwell, and prisoners otherwise soon to complete their sentences.
As courts take stricter measures in response to the developing situation, criminal cases are increasingly delayed, lengthening time on remand in dire conditions. Reports of the suspension of visitation rights and the likelihood of prisons being placed in lock-down are an additional concern for the well-being of prisoners.
Liberty Victoria urges the government to introduce measures to promote bail and non-custodial punishments for all accused persons who are not deemed to be a significant risk to community safety.
For comment, please contact Liberty Victoria on 03 9670 6422 or firstname.lastname@example.org