Ireland: managing uncertainty
The Irish reaction to the sanitary crisis in prison and its consequences
In 2017, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) had implemented a “whole of prison approach to infection control”, following a tuberculosis outbreak. It comprised the establishment of an infections control team, in partnership with the Irish Red Cross Inmates Team, and the training of 2,300 staff and 450 prisoners on the topic of infection control.
The IPS initiated its COVID-19 response mid-February 2020, before it was declared a pandemic. The infections control team rapidly established an Emergency Response Planning Team (“ERPT”) consisting of senior staff with skills and experience in operational, healthcare and infection control, working in partnership with the National Public Health Emergency Team and the Irish Red Cross.
Irish Prison Reform Trust (IPRT), a charity campaigning for prisoners’ rights, reports a very open and efficient communication between the ERPT, the prison administration and the government. This enabled a fast policy response and implementation of measures.
The prison administration used new communication channels on its website and on social media to disseminate information outside the prison system.
IPRT highlighted the interesting work done in partnership with the Irish Red Cross to produce accessible information leaflets. They involved volunteering prisoners in raising awareness within the facilities about social distancing gestures and identification of high-risk practices.
Prison Insider and the Centre for Studies on Justice and Society (Chile) propose an analysis of the first year of the pandemic in prisons in eleven countries. Ireland is one of them.