Victorian prisoners will have their sentences cut by a combined total of 487 years after being held under strict conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousand of inmates have been granted "emergency management days" in return for measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which saw some confined to their cells 24 hours a day.
Eligible prisoners will have their prison terms commuted by one day for every day of significant restrictions they faced.
Port Phillip Prison, in Truganina.Credit:Craig Abraham
By the end of August, 71,020 days had been cut from the sentences of 4313 prisoners, at an average of 16.4 days each.
A further 106,874 days of freedom were given to offenders on remand, however, the reductions will only apply to those eventually handed a prison sentence by the courts.
A state government spokeswoman said the reductions were a privilege, not a right, and could be taken away if prisoners misbehaved.
"The safety and security of staff and prisoners is our highest priority and emergency management days are a critical tool to maintaining order and safety during these challenging times," the spokeswoman said.
"Despite the ongoing challenges and restrictions prisoners are facing, we’ve experienced the lowest levels of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in six years."
Under Victorian law, prisoners can receive four days off their sentence for every day of deprivation.
However, the state government said it was only providing one day to reflect the impact of the pandemic being felt by the wider community.
Disruptions for prisoners have included fewer hours out of cells, lockdowns and being placed in 14-day quarantine regardless of infection risk.
Monique Hurley, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the sentence reductions were a "reasonable first step".
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Andrews government has been subjecting people in prison to punitive practices like protective quarantine and lockdowns, which are too often both code for solitary confinement," she said.
"Reducing the sentences of people who have been subjected to these practices is a reasonable first step, but the Andrews government must do more to reduce the number of people being subjected to these harmful practices in the first place."
There are currently no active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria's prison system.
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