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Victorian prisoners get up to a month taken off jail time due to pandemic

ABC News

Victoria’s shadow corrections spokesman David Southwick says almost 5,000 prisoners will be released from jail early because of disruptions caused by coronavirus.

Prisoners have had up to 30 days shaved off their jail terms due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Data from the Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee reveals the inmates have been handed more than 900 years worth of emergency management days combined, as compensation for spending more time than usual in their cells and no visitors — to help stop the spread of the virus.

The prisoners have also been given an additional $10 per week phone allowance, while more than $300,000 was spent on tablets for video calls.

Shadow Corrections Minister David Southwick says it smacks of double standards.

“It just seems a complete double standard. We’ve all done it tough,” he said.

“We all received nothing during the lockdown period yet prisoners seem to be the only ones benefiting under the lockdown and under Daniel Andrews’s pandemic period.”

But a Victorian Government spokesperson said Emergency Management Days (EMDs) were a “privilege and not a right”.

“Any prisoner who behaves badly loses the privilege,” the spokesperson said.

“The safety and security of staff and prisoners is our highest priority, and emergency management days are a critical tool to maintaining order and safety during these challenging times.

“After in-person visits were suspended, we introduced a $10 weekly phone allowance to ensure prisoners could continue connecting with family and their community. Maintaining family and community connections is important for prisoner rehabilitation, and helps reduce reoffending by providing critical support networks upon release.

“Allegations that prisoners are ‘cashing out’ their additional phone allowance upon release are simply false.”

Reporting by Kathy Lord

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