Prison officers are demanding mandatory vaccinations be adopted across the NSW justice system, with the union saying inmates who refuse the jab should face the same public health restrictions unvaccinated members of the public do.
On Tuesday, Acting Commissioner Kevin Corcoran mandated all prison officers will require mandatory vaccination, with the first vaccination needed by 30 October 2021 and the second dose by the end of January, 2022.
Stewart Little, general secretary of the Public Service Association said the union accepted mandatory vaccination for officers was critical to keeping jails safe, but called on the government to extend it to the entire prison population, not just those who work in it.
“Mandatory vaccinations just for prison officers is a job half done,” said Mr Little. “To keep NSW jails safe from COVID-19 everyone in the justice system needs to be vaccinated, no excuses.”
The union has written to Minister Anthony Roberts seeking confirmation inmates will be vaccinated, and where they can’t be, health restrictions similar to what the non-vaccinated public face will be adopted.
“Right now in NSW you can’t go on a picnic with your mate unless you’re fully vaccinated. It’s looking likely you won’t be able to go to the footy, get your hair done, or share a drink with friends at the pub with out proof of your vaccination.
“Inside NSW jails though, despite it being one of the highest risk settings you can think of, there is no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated inmates.
“We want to see vaccinations offered to people as soon as they enter custody. If they refuse, well then they’re going to have to be separated from the rest of the general inmate population – that means they can’t go into minimum security, can’t get a job in the workshops, and face restrictions on visitors.
“There are some 30,000 people in the justice system currently. The public need to understand the population is always fluctuating and can be quite transient – for any one person in prison there’s another on remand or out on bail.
“Getting people in the criminal justice system jabbed isn’t just going to make our prisons safer, it means those who might have done their time and then head home into a regional community will be vaccinated.
“The prison population is also made up of a lot of people with poor health – the rate of hepatitis is about 4 times that of what you find in general population. This would be an effective public health measure that takes in a lot of marginalised people.
“By the end of October every prison officer will have gotten their first jab, it’s right that inmates should be given the same opportunity.”