Positive case sees coronavirus seep into prisons
Two of Victoria's biggest prisons have been exposed to COVID-19 after the first recorded case in a prisoner.
The prisoner was tested for coronavirus when he arrived at Melbourne Assessment Prison on Monday.
He was transferred to the Metropolitan Remand Centre on Wednesday before his test results were confirmed.
The test came back positive on Friday and the prisoner was placed into isolation.
A Department of Justice and Community Safety spokeswoman said the prisoner is asymptomatic and was in protective quarantine at MRC until he returned a positive result.
The Herald Sun understands he faced the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Monday over robbery, drug and stolen goods offences.
Contract tracing is under way to notify anyone who was exposed to him.
Prisoner advocates have called for the urgent release of all nonviolent and vulnerable prisoners to prevent further infections.
Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barne SC said prisoners are at "grave risk" of contracting the virus.
"Since the COVID-19 crisis broke we have said that prisoners are at grave risk of becoming infected and that the poor sanitary conditions of prisons around Australia means COVID-19 could spread quickly if it enters a prison," he said.
"In other jurisdictions such as the UK, US and Europe, prisoners have been released to lessen the chance of a COVID-19 infection spreading.
"Non-violent prisoners, prisoners who are on remand simply because they have no home address, and vulnerable prisoners such as those over 65 should be released now. In fact, the Victorian government should already have done this."
A prison insider said the infection has thrown the justice system into crisis.
"How can Victorians have confidence in Corrections Victoria managing the state's hotel quarantine if they haven't even been able to effectively manage the frontline prison COVID-19 protocols," the source said.
The department spokeswoman said the prisoner would be "monitored and assessed while in isolation, and is being provided with a range of supports".
She said the transfer was not outside normal processes and that exposure to staff at both prisons was minimal as they wear personal protective clothing in quarantine areas.
All Victorian prisoners must be tested for COVID-19 on arrival and undergo a 14-day protective quarantine process.
The Department of Health and Human Services is working to trace people the prisoner came in contact with while infectious.