Coronavirus: Temperature checks, reusable masks for inmates

In Singapore, no inmate or staff of the prison service has been infected so far.
In Singapore, no inmate or staff of the prison service has been infected so far.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's prison inmates, numbering about 11,000, have each been issued with a reusable mask as part of the country's precautionary moves to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Also, inmates who report feeling unwell are required to don the mask and be separated immediately from others in the prison and monitored closely, said a spokesman for the Singapore Prison Service.

"Any inmate who fulfils the Ministry of Health case definition for Covid-19 will be tested for the virus," she told The Straits Times at the weekend.

In providing an update on its measures, the prison service also said the temperature of all inmates is taken twice daily, and safe distancing measures are in place to reduce any congregating of inmates, like during yard time for recreation.

The impact of the Covid-19 disease on prisons in several countries has attracted widespread interest after a few of these nations chose to free inmates who do not pose a grave danger to society.

Indonesia, for instance, reportedly released about 10 per cent of eligible inmates from its prison population of more than 270,000 in a bid to reduce the transmission risk of the coronavirus.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that 180 of its employees and 352 federal inmates have tested positive for Covid-19 across the country as of Sunday.

In Singapore, no inmate or staff of the prison service has been infected so far, its spokesman said yesterday.

As part of the circuit breaker measures, newly admitted inmates are housed separately from the others in the prison and monitored for 14 days.


The prison service also works closely with the courts to implement safe distancing measures for inmates who need to be escorted for court appearances. Video conferencing is used when possible.

It has also suspended programmes involving external partners since April 7, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin told Parliament last week.

For religious programmes, it has worked with religious volunteers to provide videos and reading materials for the inmates.

Facilities in the prison that provide essential services, such as food and laundry, continue to operate with safe distancing measures in place.


While family visits are suspended during the circuit breaker period from April 7 to May 4, the prison service is facilitating local phone calls for inmates to keep in touch with their families. Meanwhile, they can continue to send and receive letters and e-letters.

Other measures taken include compulsory temperature taking at all access points into a prison facility and front-line officers being given personal protective equipment, such as disposable masks and gloves, for use when they interact with newly arrived inmates and suspected cases of infection.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2020, with the headline 'Temperature checks, reusable masks for inmates'. Subscribe