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Government Must Protect People In Prisons

The below statement can be attributed to Campaigns Director Lisa Woods from Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, following outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons.

Due to the communal nature of prisons, people held there are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID. It is deeply concerning that growing numbers of people in prison are contracting the virus.

People in prison deserve dignity and care - including access to health care and PPE when needed - and crucially right now, vaccinations.

People in prison do not have the same autonomy and opportunities to protect themselves against COVID as others do. The responsibility to care for people in prison falls on the agencies restricting their liberty, and the Ministers responsible for those agencies.

Amnesty International was concerned to read in a response to an Official Information Act request that on 11 June 2021, Corrections was advised that a decision had been made by the Ministry of Health to slow the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine to certain groups, including people in prison. The reason was to manage stocks.

As a result, Corrections paused the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine to prisoners at all sites from Monday 14 June 2021, with the vaccination programme only resuming in late July 2021, not long before the Delta outbreak.

Delays like this put an already vulnerable population at greater risk. Given the information that has come to light, questions must be asked and assurances provided about the prioritisation of people in prison for vaccinations, including boosters, and that there are no further delays, especially with Omicron spreading quickly.

The Government must ensure it is doing everything it can to protect people in prison.

© Scoop Media

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