UPDATE: The Department of Justice has provided an updated response relating to Emergency Management Days in the prison system.
The Standard previously asked the department if prisoners could use EMDs to deduct time from future jail sentences but a spokeswoman said no further information could be provided.
Late on Friday, the department provided additional information stating prisoners may be eligible to be granted EMDs from a previous term of imprisonment, if the prisoner has returned to custody on the same matters for which they previously experienced the period of deprivation or disruption.
Those prisoners who have served their sentences and then they have returned to custody are not eligible to have EMDs applied to their current sentences.
Earlier: A family violence perpetrator could earn a get-out-of-jail-free card if he reoffends due to restrictions imposed in prisons during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 28-year-old Warrnambool man, who cannot be named because that could identify the victim, pleaded guilty in Warrnambool Magistrates Court in August to breaching orders and assault offences.
On Tuesday, he was sentenced to the 352 days he served in custody on remand and released on an 18-month correction order.
The court heard the man had accumulated about 56 Emergency Management Days (EMD) while in prison, none of which were deducted because he was jailed for the time he had already spent in custody awaiting his court date.
An EMD is a day deducted from a sentence due to the impact of particular circumstances.
Prisoners who suffered disruption or deprivation due to the response to the coronavirus pandemic are automatically considered for EMDs, unless they have demonstrated poor behaviour.
The days are used by prison authorities as a tool to maintain order and safety inside prisons.
In sentencing, magistrate Peter Mellas said the man's 56 EMDs were not able to be used (because he was sentenced to time already served) but if future offending occurred, the days could be taken into account.
Mr Mellas said that upon his release, the man would start the community correction order which would involve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, as well as offender behaviour programs and supervision.
He said the sentence imposed reflected the circumstances of the man's offending, as well as "circumstances of you being in custody during a very difficult time for the community and also people in the prison system".
Mr Mellas said the offending involved behaviour that "must and will have had enormous impact on the victim".
During the man's plea hearing in August, the court heard he repeatedly stayed at the victim's house despite an intervention order prohibiting him from doing so.
On one occasion he sat on top of her, placing his forearm across her neck.
The victim was forced to seek alternative accommodation but she repeatedly received calls and threats from the man, who was her former partner.
In a victim impact statement, the victim said she and her young children were constantly scared and stressed and she had nightmares involving the man coming to her house.
She said she felt sick, struggled to eat and had lost all enjoyment in her life.
"I can't tell you what it's like to feel unsafe in your own home," the victim said in her statement.
Information obtained from the Department of Justice and Community Safety revealed 165,582 EMDs had been granted to 5285 sentenced prisoners between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and June 30 this year.
The Standard twice asked the department if prisoners could use EMDs to deduct time from future jail sentences but it did not respond.
Instead, a spokeswoman said EMDs were introduced in 1992 and were applied by corrections authorities when a prisoner's sentence was significantly harsher than was provided for by the courts.
"In recent times this has been because prisoners have at times been detained to a cell for 23-24 hours a day to manage the risk of COVID-19," the spokeswoman said.
She said EMDs were granted on a one-day for one-day basis, meaning eligible prisoners received a day off their sentence for each day of significant restrictions they faced.
"EMDs are a privilege, not a right, and prisoners are not granted an EMD if they demonstrate poor behaviour," the spokeswoman said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Emma House is a Warrnambool-based not-for-profit service and can be contacted through 1800 EMMADV (1800 366238) or visit emmahouse.org.au/
Safe Steps for women after hours service is available through 188 015 188.
Brophy Family and Youth Services can be contacted on 1300 BROPHY or 03 5561 8888.
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