Preparedness for coronavirus at the Criminal Sanctions Agency - frequently asked questions (FAQ)

We have collected information about the effects of the coronavirus on the operation of the Criminal Sanctions Agency on this website. Our aim is to respond to the growing need for information among our clients and the media.

The page will be updated regularly.


Criminal Sanctions Agency

How does the coronavirus situation affect the events and in-service training arranged by the Criminal Sanctions Agency?

All events and in-service training sessions have been cancelled, postponed, or, where possible, arranged online.

How does the coronavirus situation affect the teaching at the Training Institute for Prison and Probation Services?

The teaching at the Training Institute for Prison and Probation Services is now delivered online.

How does the coronavirus situation affect the Criminological Library?

Books can be borrowed from the Criminological Library at a time agreed beforehand between 1 June and 18 June and again from 1 August onwards. All services will not yet be available.

What do the officials of the Criminal Sanctions Agency do if they become ill?

They are not allowed to come to the workplace if they are ill. If officials suspect that they have the coronavirus infection, they must follow the instructions of the occupational health care company Mehiläinen or contact the local health centre. In addition, they must contact their superior. Further instructions for the officials of the Criminal Sanctions Agency are available in our intranet.

What do the officials of the Criminal Sanctions Agency do if they have been abroad?

Official journeys abroad are not carried out. The Criminal Sanctions Agency follows the instructions of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs regarding journeys abroad.

How can I contact the officials of the Criminal Sanctions Agency?

The number of physical meetings has been decreased and the use of electronic services, such as the telephone, Skype, and email, has been increased.

Some of the staff work remotely from home but the Criminal Sanctions Agency has many duties where physical interaction is necessary, for example, in the prisons or as part of the supervision of probationary liberty.

The contact information of the Criminal Sanctions Agency can be found on our website.

Can a public official be laid off during the coronavirus pandemic?

There is no need for that. In the Criminal Sanctions Agency, the primary means of avoiding lay-offs include, among others, the arrangement of tasks and the transfer to other duties within the Agency or, if the situation so requires, elsewhere in the state administration.


Prisons

How does the coronavirus situation affect closed prisons and open prisons?

The coronavirus situation affects all units of the Criminal Sanctions Agency. The spread of coronavirus among the prisoners and the staff is prevented by restricting or reducing activities.

Can the practices vary between different prisons?

The practical measures vary from prison to prison because the units are very different. Different wards may have different daily schedules.

What activities are arranged despite the prevailing emergency conditions?

Prisons always arrange prisoners an opportunity to exercise outdoors, get food, and take care of their hygiene. In addition, the prisons arrange prisoners an opportunity to communicate with people outside the prison.

How are meals arranged?

Meals are served at the prison wards is it is possible.

Prisoners can still make purchases in the prison canteens.

If the prisons cannot organise activities normally, what alternative activities are there?

The prisons aim to organise their activities normally. The content of the obligation to participate in activities may be changed if needed. The alternative activities must advance the sentence plan and can be, among others, different kind of work, independent studies, distance learning, or learning to use the electronic services.

Can events still be organised in the prisons?

Events meant for more than ten people or prisoners living in different wards, such as concerts and sports competitions, are not organised.

How can prisoners communicate with the outside world?

Prisoners can still use the telephone, the prison email, the web service Suomi.fi, and the postal service. Prisoners can also make Skype calls. The duration of Skype calls can be limited to, for example, 15 minutes in order to ensure that everyone has equal access to them.

Decisions concerning the visits by the prisoners’ close relatives and children will be made in mid-June. Visits in the prisons have been suspended since 13 March 2020. Visits have been replaced by Skype meetings during the coronavirus restrictions.

Do the prisons arrange family visits?

Family visits have been temporarily cancelled due to the prevailing situation. They have been replaced by increasing access to Skype calls.

Decisions concerning the visits by the prisoners’ close relatives and children will be made in mid-June. Visits in the prisons have been suspended since 13 March 2020. Visits have been replaced by Skype meetings during the coronavirus restrictions.

Are prisoners granted prison leaves?

The director of the unit decides on prison leaves. When making a decision, the director takes into account the conditions prevailing in society and the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Due to the coronavirus situation, prison leaves have, in practice, only been granted for a particularly important reason, such as the funeral or serious illness of a close person.

If necessary, a prison leave that has already been granted may be revoked on the grounds laid down in the Imprisonment Act.

Can prison leave, which could have been granted based on the length of the term of sentence but was not used because of the coronavirus restrictions, be used after the restrictions have been lifted?

Normally, prison leave of at most three days per each two-month period may be granted based on the length of the term of sentence after the earliest date for prison leave has been passed. Prison leave is based on the grounds laid down in the Imprisonment Act and it is always discretionary. Therefore, prison leave, which could have been granted if there were no restrictions caused by the coronavirus, cannot be granted at a later date.

How does the coronavirus situation affect probationary liberty under supervision?

The enforcement of probationary liberties under supervision continues. During the coronavirus situation, the obligation to participate in activities commonly means activities that can be done at home, such as completing programmes independently or over the telephone or working or studying remotely from home.

The person may continue to work especially if the work is critical to society but it must always be agreed separately.

When we inspect the homes of the supervised people and install the ankle tags, we follow the instructions of the health and welfare authorities.

Can other authorities visit the prisons?

Other authorities, lawyers and legal counsel can still visit the prisons.

How does the coronavirus situation affect legal proceedings and hearings?

Some trials are carried out by using electronic services, such as the video connection.

Hearings are preferably conducted by means of remote communication.

Lawyers can meet prisoners in the visiting facilities of the prison with plastic partitions if it is not possible to arrange the meeting by using remote communication. The people in the visiting facilities must keep safe distance between each other.

Can prisoners study during the coronavirus situation?

Studying is possible if it is carried out as independent studies in the cell or online studies by using electronic services.

Can prisoners participate in free-time activities during the coronavirus situation?

Free-time activities are still arranged in the prisons but the arrangements may vary between prisons.

Access to the gyms, sports halls, and saunas will be possible starting from 1 June as long as good hygiene and adequate distances between people are taken into consideration. The use of the gyms and sports halls may be staggered.

Decisions on free-time activities are always made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the law and the instructions of the Criminal Sanctions Agency and the health and welfare authorities.

Prisoners can still use library services and ask for books by using, for example, the general inquiry form.

Can prisoners practise religion in the prisons?

Prisoners can still practise religion in the prisons. Church services can be arranged, for instance, via the radio or Skype in the prison ward.

How does the coronavirus situation affect the prisoner’s work activities and wages?

If the participation in activities is discontinued due to the coronavirus situation, the aim is to arrange alternative activities for prisoners, such as independent studying in the cell, individual activity programmes, or other mainly independent activities.

If the activity is discontinued due to the coronavirus but the prison cannot offer alternative activities, the prisoners are paid the activity allowance or, for open prison work, the wages for the duration of the discontinuance. The payment is made according to the decision on the placement in the activity, which is in force when the activity is discontinued. Closed prisons will start expanding their work activities and offering them to more prisoners as from 1 June.

Permissions for civilian work granted in open prisons are not withdrawn due to the coronavirus situation but the decisions on them are always made individually in each unit. Working prisoners can be arranged separate accommodation if need be. Open prison work that is arranged outdoors can be started in small groups as of 1 June.

How are the risk groups taken into consideration?

Many prisoners are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. By placing those in the risk groups, such as prisoners who are over 70 years old, in separate wards and cells, we aim to ensure the safest possible conditions for everyone.

What measures are taken if a prisoner is suspected of being infected with coronavirus?

The prison staff contacts the Health Care Services for Prisoners, which is responsible for the health care of prisoners. The staff of the prison polyclinic examines the prisoner's health in the prison. Further measures are taken based on the instructions of health care staff. When necessary, the Health Care Services for Prisoners makes the decision on the quarantine and isolation of a prisoner pursuant to the Communicable Diseases Act. The prisoner may be transferred to a prison hospital or a public hospital if need be.

Where do prisoners get information about the coronavirus situation?

The prison staff and the staff of the Health Care Services for Prisoners are the main sources of information about the development of the coronavirus situation. In addition, we have added information regarding the coronavirus in several languages to the prisoners' intranet Portti. Portti also contains links to services focusing on mental well-being and family affairs.

How does the coronavirus situation affect the transfer of prisoners?

Prisoners are still being transferred from closed prisons to open prisons. Transfers from a closed prison to another closed prison are only made for an important reason. Remand prisoners are transferred according to normal practices in order to prevent the overcrowding in remand prisons.

Prisoners are not transferred if they are in quarantine or isolation.

How are short sentences enforced during the emergency conditions?

The start of the enforcement of conversion sentences for unpaid fines or unconditional prison sentences will be postponed until 31 July 2020. It is necessary to restrict the admission of new prisoners to the prisons in order to minimise the effects of the coronavirus epidemic. The dates to report to prison, which have already been given, are not cancelled.

How are visits by children arranged?

Family and other visits have been cancelled in the prisons temporarily and this also applies to visits by children. Prisoners can communicate with people close to them in other ways, such as by Skype, telephone, letters, and prison email.

Decisions concerning the visits by the prisoners’ close relatives and children will be made in mid-June. Visits in the prisons have been suspended since 13 March 2020. Visits have been replaced by Skype meetings during the coronavirus restrictions.

How can prisoners use the video connection in prison?

Prisoners may be given permission to communicate with their close relatives or other close people via supervised video connection where the participants have an audio and visual connection with each other. A meeting with a counsel may also be arranged via video connection at the request of the prisoner or the counsel. The video connection may also be used to communicate with other authorities and cooperation partners with the help of an official of the Criminal Sanctions Agency. The availability of video connections may vary between prisons.

How can prisoners use the internet in prison?

Prisoners may be given permission to use the internet for a reason related to their subsistence or attendance to work-related, educational, judicial, social, or housing matters or for other corresponding important reason. The decisions of granting and revoking permission to use the internet and giving a computer into the possession of a prisoner are made by the prison director or the public official in charge of security or activities. The prison staff, especially the instructors responsible for online services, can help prisoners with the use of the internet.

What electronic services can prisoners access via the internet in prison?

Prisoners can browse various substance abuse, health care, and social welfare services via the internet in a closed prison. Many services linked to education, training, and employment are also available. In addition, prisoners can browse, among others, the online housing services and other services essential in view of release (Kela, Tax Administration, etc.) as well as online banks. Prisoners can communicate with authorities via the web service Suomi.fi Messages.

Why does not everyone have access to the internet / remote services in prison?

The decisions of granting and revoking permission to use the internet and giving a computer into the possession of a prisoner are made by the prison director or the public official in charge of security or activities. A prerequisite for granting permission is that the use of the internet does not endanger prison order, prison safety and security, or the safety of the prisoner or some other person. If the prerequisites for granting permission to use the internet are no longer met after the decision has been made or if the prisoner violates the conditions of permission, the permission may be revoked.

Can prisoners use email in prison?

Prisoners in closed prisons cannot use their personal email. They can, however, receive email to a specific email address of the prison. The prison staff prints the incoming email for the prisoners. Attachments cannot be sent to prisoners. Prisoners, who have permission to use the internet, can communicate with authorities via the web service Suomi.fi Messages. In open prison, prisoners, who have permission to use the internet, can also use their personal web-based email services.

How does the coronavirus affect education and training arranged in prison?

Some prisons arrange contact teaching with small changes due to the coronavirus (e.g. safe distance between students, smaller groups). Most prisons have changed to distance learning. Distance learning in prison means that the students complete assignments independently. The teacher sends the assignments to a member of the prison staff who delivers them to the prisoners. The completed assignments are sent back to the teacher who checks them. In most prisons, prisoners can get help from the teachers by using Skype or the telephone.


Community Sanctions

How does the corona situation affect the opening hours of the community sanctions offices?

The community sanctions offices are open during regular office hours but the primary means of communication are telephone, Skype, or Lync.

How can I reach a criminal sanctions official working in a community sanction office? Which channels can I use?

The available channels are the telephone, Skype, Lync, or encrypted email.

Do you enforce new community sanctions during the emergency conditions?

The aim is that new community sanctions are enforced as normally as possible. You can report to a community sanctions office by telephone.

How are different municipal sanctions carried out during the emergency conditions?

Community service

Community service work can be continued if it can be performed in accordance with the safety instructions issued by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL (e.g. outdoor work) and the service place agrees to it. If the work cannot be continued, we assess whether community service could include, among others, programmes or series of discussions by using remote communication. Otherwise, community service will be suspended for a fixed period.

Monitoring sentence

New monitoring sentences are not started during this pandemic.

The sentence plans of ongoing monitoring sentence are changed so that the obligation to participate in activities can be fulfilled by carrying out compulsory activities at home. The schedule may include fewer compulsory activities than in normal situations.

Juvenile punishment and supervision of conditional imprisonment and conditional release

New juvenile punishments and cases of supervision are enforced. The sentence plans of ongoing juvenile punishments are changed so that they include written assignments or online assignments done at home or individual programmes or discussions on specific themes with the supervisor via telephone or secure remote connections.

In ongoing supervisions, telephone calls and meetings via remote connections are accepted as means of communication.

What should I do if I get sick but have a set appointment with a criminal sanction official?

You must inform the official of your absence in a normal manner as agreed in the sentence plan.

Will community service be interrupted if the service place is closed?

In this situation, it may be difficult to find another service place. The supervisor and the client assess together whether it is possible to, among others, complete some programme or have discussions with the supervisor by using remote communication. If no other alternative activity is found, community service may be suspended for a fixed period.

What kind of activities can be carried out at home as part of community service?

The activities can be, among others, written assignments, online assignments provided by substance abuse and mental health services, or discussions with and programmes held by the supervisor via telephone, Skype, or Lync. The content must be agreed with the supervisor in advance.

Do the supervision patrols still make home visits?

The supervision patrols continue to make supervision visits but the meetings are held outside as far as possible.

How is electronic monitoring carried out during the emergency conditions?

Electronic monitoring is carried out normally.

How do the criminal sanctions officials and the clients protect themselves in situations requiring close contact?

They protect themselves primarily by maintaining sufficient distance. If there is a need for close contact, such as the installation and removal of the ankle tag, the officials wear gloves and respiratory protective equipment. If you have any symptoms of flu, you must tell about it beforehand.

 
Published 2.6.2020