Victorian prisoners are being trained in one of the few businesses still booming during the COVID-19 pandemic – cleaning.

Inmates have been offered courses in the state’s jails to become accredited in some skills needed for coronavirus cleaning, including touch-point cleaning, infection prevention and safe work practices.

And it is not just theoretical training, with inmates already putting their new skills into practice cleaning the general areas in some prisons.

Officials say some prisoners already had cleaning duties in exchange for small amounts of money into their prison accounts, but they have been skilled up as part of the fight to prevent a widespread outbreak on the inside.

“Once certified, prisoners have specialised cleaning skills, which they’re able to apply in designated prison areas to complement professional cleaning arrangements,” a Department of Justice and Community Safety spokesperson said.

The short-course certificate in specialised cleaning adds to the repertoire of qualifications prisoners can gain to help their job prospects once released.

Inmates have been offered barista training, hospitality courses and agriculture certificates, but as one corrections employee said, specialised cleaning was now “one booming industry”.

Minister for Corrections Natalie Hutchins said it was vital for prisoners to learn new skills.

“This is about providing prisoners with practical skills and an accreditation they can use to help find employment on release,” Ms Hutchins said.

The Department of Justice spokesperson said deep cleaning of areas more at risk of coronavirus infection, such as quarantine, was still being carried out by professionals.

Prisoners were not cleaning staff areas, the department added.

There are more than 20 active cases of coronavirus connected to Victoria’s prisons and youth detention centres, the Department of Justice says.

Eleven young people at the Parkville youth detention centre have recorded positive tests since entering the centre in the past fortnight, while eight adult prisoners across two jails have recorded positive tests. All are in isolation, meaning Parkville, the Metropolitan Remand Centre and the Melbourne Assessment Prison are still operating normally.

A further four people – a staff member at Parkville, a worker at Malmsbury youth detention centre and two guards at adult prisons – also tested positive recently and were self-isolating at home.

Human rights lawyers have been calling for the early release of non-violent and vulnerable prisoners to cut numbers inside Victoria’s at-capacity system and reduce the risk of a widespread outbreak.

Source: THE AGE

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