Prisons: Coronavirus

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 20 January 2021.

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Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to reduce the rate of covid-19 infection in prisons.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The safety of our staff and those under our supervision remains our top priority. We have taken quick and decisive action – backed by Public Health England and Wales – to limit the spread of the virus.

Our measures have included restricting regimes, minimising inter-prison transfers and compartmentalising our prisons into different units to isolate the sick, shield the vulnerable and quarantine new arrivals. A comprehensive regular testing regime of both staff and prisoners is also in place and is key in helping to prevent the spread of the virus. We are also working closely with the NHS to support the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations for eligible groups in custody. Our experience and evidence gathering provides an indication that these measures have had a positive impact on limiting deaths and the transmission of the virus in prisons.

Due to the current risk level posed by Covid-19, all adult prisons are currently operating a Stage Four regime, as outlined in our National Framework (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-national-framework-for-prison-regimes-and-services). This involves restrictions to reduce contact between people and therefore reduce the chance of transmission. We are keeping the level of restriction necessary under close review. We must continue to respond in a measured way in line with public health advice to ensure our approach is proportionate and legitimate, as we have done throughout.

This is now a familiar way of working for the operational line and wider stakeholders, and it also appropriately balances our different risks, including the physical and mental health of staff and prisoners; violence and major disorder; and the loss of staff confidence.

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