Debbie Kilroy OAM is the CEO of Sisters Inside and one of Australia’s leading advocates for the human rights of women and girls in the criminal legal system. She’s also just been cleared of COVID-19, after spending 25 days in self-isolation with the virus.
She has documented her difficult experience in isolation on social media.
Kilroy tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Australia after a work trip to the US. Her experience with the virus has left her desperately concerned for those in prisons across Australia.
Speaking to ABC News Breakfast last week, Kilroy explained that all prisons in Australia are currently in total lockdown. The only people going in or out are prison officers and other correctional staff.
Australia’s prison system is significantly overcrowded. In New South Wales, there are 14,000 prisoners and only 6,000 cells. In Queensland, prisons are over capacity by 20 per cent. Kilroy is concerned that once COVID-19 hits our prisons, it will spread very quickly and we won’t be able to contain it.
“It’ll be like wildfire,” she said.
As Kilroy says, people in prison can’t practice physical or social distancing. And hygiene is a massive issue, especially in prisons where there is not enough soap.
“We also know that people in prison, particularly women, their health is worse than out here in the free world.”
Kilroy has called for the release of people from prison, particularly those who are on remand and haven’t yet been found guilty. She says 40 per cent of prisoners are in this situation, while another 20 per cent are in for minor breeches of parole.
“People in prison will die,” she says.