On October 6, 2020, the Director General of Prison’s Department outlined specific measures to deal with the alarming rise of in-prison related COVID-19 cases. The Prison’s Department identified 11,018 prisoners with less than a year of sentence remaining to be eligible for a Release-on License program, according to the Prison Act 1995. Currently, Prison’s Department is taking a phased release approach and has already released ~600 prisoners—and plans to release 11,018 within the next 3 – 6 months. However, without an adequately coordinated and integrated post-release community linkage strategy for continuum of treatment services, care and social services incorporating civil society organizations, the plan may overwhelm the existing limited capacity of government resources and civil society organizations.
Furthermore, identifying needs, strategic planning and preparation for release of prisoners into the community should start early to allow arrangement for housing, transport, financial security, substance use treatment, and mental health services to be communicated with family members or community organizations, prior to release. Therefore, evidence based social integration interventions with strategic civil society and community partnerships should be included in both pre-release and post-release programs for this key population. To do so, civil society engagement in the COVID-19 response at national and local levels should be strengthened to support the decarceration effort amidst COVID-19.