COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions for family and friends
As a family member or friend of a prisoner, we understand you may have questions regarding DCS and COVID-19. This web page will be regularly updated to answer some of your frequently asked questions.
DCS and COVID-19
Are there any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in SA prisons?
SA DCS have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our prisons.
What is the department’s response to COVID-19?
The department’s number one priority now and going forward is to prevent the disease from entering our prison system and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in South Australia.
DCS is taking all preventative steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of our prisons, while prioritising and protecting our prisoners and staff.
DCS are continuing to work closely with SA Health and are utilising up to date and accurate advice from them around COVID-19.
How is DCS preparing for a possible confirmed case of COVID-19?
Extensive operational planning and decision making is occurring across our prisons giving consideration to our unique custodial environment.
DCS has plans in place for:
- an individual suspected of COVID-19
- an individual confirmed with COVID-19, and
- both scenarios for multiple prisoners.
If DCS have a suspected or confirmed case our first action will be to isolate the individual and then to assess the potential for further cases.
DCS will ensure medical care is provided to prisoners, equivalent to what is available in the community.
What happens if a prisoner presents as unwell?
All prisoners across the state who report as unwell are medically assessed and screened.
If a prisoner meets the criteria for testing for COVID-19 the prisoner will be isolated, and the department's strict policies put into place.
Will prisoners be advised if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in prison?
Yes – all prisoners will be advised if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the prison. They will also be notified on how DCS is managing the situation. Keeping a clear flow of information is part of the DCS strategy, reassuring people that all that can be done is being done is important at this time.
Will family be advised if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in prison?
As with all serious medical issues, if a prisoner is confirmed to have COVID-19 their next of kin will be notified.
What precautions are in place to stop COVID-19 getting into the prisons? How will officers be prevented from infecting prisoners?
DCS has mapped out an escalated response plan to proactively ensure the department takes every precaution to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in our prison system.
The department also continues to work nationally with corrections in other jurisdictions to share our planning and decisions to ensure our approach is considered, consistent and in line with best practice.
DCS continues to implement necessary plans and is very strictly following the advice that is given by SA Health as the lead agency. Continuing advice from SA Health will be implemented immediately by the department.
Anyone who works in a prison and has travelled overseas or may otherwise have been exposed to COVID-19 is required to self-isolate for 14 days and be healthy before returning to work.
Will low risk prisoners be released early on to Home Detention or parole?
There are no current plans to release additional prisoners early. Currently SA has a Home Detention program which continues to operate as usual.
If there is a problem, who can I talk to at the prison?
If the problem is not medical you should follow the same processes described on our Family and Friends web page.
I have a question regarding DCS and COVID-19?
If you have any questions regarding DCS and COVID-19, please phone the SA Health COVID Information Line on 1800 253 787 or email DCSASUAdmin@sa.gov.au.
Why have personal prison visits been suspended?
On Friday, 20 March 2020 the Prime Minister announced that the National Cabinet had taken a decision with respect to prison operations. A decision was made to suspend all personal visits to adult correctional facilities across Australia.
All personal visits to our prisons have been suspended from Monday, 23 March 2020 to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering our prisons.
When will personal visits resume?
DCS does not currently have a date when domestic visits will be allowed again.
The decision to suspend all personal visits to adult prisons in Australia was announced by the Prime Minister.
The department is continuously monitoring the situation and will continue to follow the advice of SA Health as the lead agency, and federal and state authorities.
Visits will recommence as soon as it is safe to do so.
What are other ways I can contact a prisoner?
DCS understands the importance of family and community connections for the wellbeing of prisoners. We also understand the importance of family and friends staying connected to their loved ones in prison.
Prisoners have access to telephone facilities and are encouraged to stay in contact with family and friends. DCS has also arranged for an additional $5 to be placed on all prisoner's phone accounts and each prisoner will receive an additional 2 postage stamps.
You can also contact a prisoner by writing to them:
- Prisoner name, ID number, and location if known
Department for Correctional Services
GPO Box 1747, Adelaide SA 5001
Video visits are available for domestic visitors across all our prisons using the Zoom application. See COVID-19: Video visits for domestic visitors for further information.
Can prisoners still get compassionate leave for funerals etc?
As you would be aware, all funerals are currently limited to 10 people. This means that the addition of a prisoner and an escort would have a severe impact on other family members in the community attending. In addition, the requirements of isolation and social distancing means that compassionate leave will not be granted for funeral attendance until these measures are no longer required.
What is DCS doing to keep prisoners healthy?
Prisoners have been getting the same hygiene and distancing messages that you would have seen in the media and are being advised to seek help immediately if they feel unwell.
The department has also increased cleaning efforts at all SA prisons.
What about vulnerable prisoners?
DCS is currently implementing a support strategy for our vulnerable prisoner population groups, such as prisoners with a disability, mental health concerns, and aged and infirmed prisoners.