Wednesday 1 April 2020
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With the appearance of the first positive cases of the coronavirus in Tyrol, all those responsible were aware of the drama of the situation and the first measures in the penitentiary system were taken.
Initially, these measures were limited to visiting rights, personal contacts were not possible anymore, visitors and inmates were separated by a glass pane, and civilians were prohibited from entering prisons.
With the increasing spread of the virus and its classification as a pandemic by the WHO, further measures to protect personnel and inmates were quickly taken. This made it impossible to carry out service operations in the usual form.
Today the situation in prisons is one of an emergency to protect both staff and inmates from possible infection. Prison work departments had to be closed, only a few sections necessary for keeping the system operational (kitchen, bakery, laundry) could be excluded from this.
The number of colleagues on duty every day has been reduced to the absolutely necessary number in order to keep the necessary reserves available in the event of a suspected case. In order to minimize the risk of infection, both staff and inmates are divided into groups that cannot have any contact with each other.
Occasional or free leave from prisons has been totally prohibited. Inmates who are newly imprisoned, are initially separated from all other inmates for two weeks. Preparations have also been made to treat sick inmates. The safety distance of at least one meter must also be observed by everyone in prisons. The need for hygienic safety is constantly reminded and mouth masks and safety glasses have been made available.
Nothing in prisons is the same as it used to be, but our colleagues have taken up this challenge and are doing an exceptional service for Austria’s security.
Norbert Dürnberger, Chairman to the Central Committee of Judicial Penitentiary Guards