The Alexander Maconochie Centre at Hume has implemented virtual visits so that detainees can remain connected to their families and community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image supplied.

Virtual visits have become the temporary norm at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) at Hume to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 and ensure detainees remain connected to their families.

The audio-visual visits started on 27 March in place of social visits. A Justice and Community Services Directorate spokesperson said there has been an average of 38 virtual visits per day.

“Due to the requirement to maintain social distancing protocols at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, ACTCS (ACT Corrective Services) are only able to offer each detainee access to one, one-hour video visit per week at this time. Previously, detainees were entitled to two, one-hour face-to-face visits per week,” the spokesperson said.

All detainees have also been provided with a weekly allowance of $20 credit to use on the detainee phone system until in-person visits resume.

ACT Minister for Corrections and Mental Health, Shane Rattenbury, said suspending face-to-face visits has “been essential to protect our detainees during the pandemic, but keeping connected with loved ones is also vital”.

“Connecting with each other via video has been a good ‘plan B’ during this difficult period, and I am pleased ACT Corrective Services was able to put the system in place so quickly.”

ACT Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach said the virtual visits recognise the significant importance that the maintenance of ties with family and friends plays for detainee wellbeing and longer-term reintegration”.

Mr Peach said the service has been well received and highly beneficial to detainees and their loved ones.

“It has been even more pleasing that I have received anecdotal feedback from families and friends that the use of the video visits has allowed visits to occur with loved ones across Australia where normal visits provision would not permit due to the tyranny of distance.”

More broadly, ACTCS is taking necessary steps to protect officers and detainees and are working closely with health partners and the Health Protection Services. These steps include increased cleaning; personal protective equipment available for staff and detainees where necessary; enhanced Justice Health Services screening and testing procedures for newly admitted detainees; and social distancing where possible.

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