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.

Updated July 15, 2020

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 spread of the coronavirus is prevented by paying attention to good hygiene and sufficient safety distances. In addition, the prisons try to avoid placing several prisoners in one cell.

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.

How are meals arranged?

Meals are arranged normally.

Prisoners can still make purchases in the prison canteens.

Can events still be organised in the prisons?

Events, such as concerts and sports competitions, can be organised if attention is paid to good hygiene and safety distances.

Only healthy people can take part in free-time activities. If necessary, participation may be refused in order to ensure safety.

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.

Can prisoners’ close relatives and children come to visit them in prison?

Starting from 1 July, visits continue as usual.

During visits, everyone must practice good hand hygiene. The visitors must be prepared to wear masks during the visits if there are no plastic partitions in the visiting facilities. Attention will be paid to keeping two-metre safety distances.

During all visits, touching is absolutely prohibited.

Can a person who has recently returned from abroad visit a prison?

If a person visiting a prisoner or an outside visitor coming to the prison has returned to Finland from a country that is still subject to internal or external border control due to the corona virus, and it has been less than 14 days since their return to Finland, visiting a prison is not recommended.

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.

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.

When we inspect the homes of the supervised people and install the ankle tags, we follow the instructions drawn up based on the recommendations of the health and welfare authorities.

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

Prisons have been able to open the gyms and sports halls since 1 June 2020. The gyms and sports halls must be cleaned every time they are used. The group size must be suitable for the size of the space.

Only healthy people can take part in free-time activities. If necessary, participation may be refused in order to ensure safety.

Can prisoners practise religion in the prisons?

Prisoners can still practise religion in the prisons.

Outside parties may also hold religious events in prison in the same way as before the onset of the coronavirus epidemic. During the events, attention must be paid to sufficient distances and, for instance, shaking hands is forbidden. The number of participants may be limited in order to ensure safety distances.

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

The prisons aim to organise the participation in activities normally. Prisoners can participate in activities only if they are healthy. Sufficient safety distances and hand hygiene must be ensured when arranging work and group activities. If necessary, prisoners attend the activities in smaller groups.

Cooperation partners can arrange activities if it is possible to maintain safety distances.

How are the risk groups taken into consideration?

Many prisoners are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. We aim to ensure the conditions for those in the risk groups are as safe as possible.

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?

If a prisoner, who should be transferred to an open prison, has symptoms of respiratory tract infection, the transfer can take place only after the prisoner has recovered and has shown no symptoms for seven days. Prisoners with symptoms of respiratory tract infection are not transferred to another prison. Prisoners are not transferred if they are placed in quarantine or isolation under the Communicable Diseases Act.

How are sentences enforced during the coronavirus situation?

The enforcement of conversion sentences for unpaid fines and unconditional prison sentences begins as the use of the Emergency Powers Act was lifted on 16 June 2020. The enforcement of sentences was postponed by a separate Act until the end of July at the most in order to prevent overcrowding in the prisons and minimise the effects of the coronavirus epidemic. The dates to report to prison, which have already been given based on the Act, are not cancelled.

The enforcement processes, which were interrupted when the restrictions were implemented, will be continued and the enforcement processes of persons, whose sentences became enforceable during the restrictions, will be initiated.

The revoked warrants of apprehension concerning prison sentences will be issued again during week 26 at the latest, and the warrants of apprehension of those who have not reported to prison can be issued now.

How will you ensure that the prisons do not fill up when you start clearing the backlog of enforcement cases?

The aim is to clear the backlog of enforcement cases in a controlled manner. The measures will be spread over a longer period of time within the limits of the law. The number of prisoner places and the resources available in the different phases of enforcement will be taken into account.

The possibility of spreading out the dates of reporting to prison and using the prison facilities nationwide allow more flexibility in this situation.

Are prisoners and community sanction clients subjected to substance testing during the coronavirus epidemic?

We always intervene if a prisoner or a client is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Substance use control and testing are carried out also during the coronavirus epidemic. The use of substances leads to punitive measures just as in a normal situation. Substance tests are carried out safely by using protective equipment and following hygiene instructions.

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 been granted 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 if it is possible to maintain safe distances.

Can prisoners take part in entrance examinations for higher education?

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the entrance examinations for higher education are organised electronically this year. In closed prisons, prisoners can take part in electronic entrance examinations via the internet by using a computer obtained from a partner education institution.

Prisoners may also take an entrance examination outside the prison by using their own computer at a predetermined location if they are eligible for prison leave. Remand prisoners may be granted permission to leave the prison under supervision for a short period in order to take part in an entrance examination.


Community Sanctions

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

The community sanctions offices are open to clients as usual.

How is safety ensured at meetings?

We pay attention to adequate cleaning, hand hygiene, and safety distances in the offices. Protective masks are used if need be. If safety so requires, meetings can still be arranged by using remote communication.

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

In addition to meetings, the official can be reached via the telephone, Skype, Lync, or encrypted emails.

Do you enforce new community sanctions during the coronavirus situation?

New community sanctions are enforced normally.

How are different municipal sanctions carried out during the coronavirus situation?

Community service

Community service work will be carried out and increased as the service places open.

Remote community service work is still possible in some cases. It can be, among others, reading to the elderly or other activity for public good. Otherwise, community service is postponed or suspended for a fixed period.

Monitoring sentence

Enforceable monitoring sentences are started and continued normally.

Juvenile punishment and supervision of conditional imprisonment and conditional release

Enforceable juvenile punishments and cases of supervision are started and continued normally.

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.

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

Due to the coronavirus, 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 activities replacing community service work can be continued until the actual work can be started. The alternative activities are not used when enforcing new community service sentences.

Do the supervision patrols still make home visits?

The supervision patrols make support and control visits at the homes or activity places of the clients and they take precautions against the risk of infection. The meetings may be arranged outdoors if the privacy of the client can be protected.

If the client or a person living with the client has symptoms of respiratory tract infection or has been placed in quarantine under the Communicable Diseases Act, the client is not met face-to-face. Otherwise, taking into account the safety instructions, visits are possible.

How is electronic monitoring carried out?

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 distances and good hand hygiene. 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 3.8.2020