Ireland: talks underway to reduce number of people in prison in a 'controlled manner'

Concerns had already been raised about how the Irish Prison Service would cope with Covid-19.

THE RELEASE OF some prisoners is one option being considered by the Irish Prison Service to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading through prisons.

In a statement this evening, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said that it was in discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality on “contingency measures” to reduce the number of people in custody.

Concerns had already been raised about the ability of overcrowded Irish prisons to cope with the spread of Covid-19.

There are currently nearly 4,200 people in Irish prisons.

Yesterday, the Irish Prison Service announced strict visiting restrictions in a bid to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus, including limiting visits to one visit per prisoner per week and not letting any children under 18 visit the prision.

Visiting times will also be limited to 15 minutes and anyone with flu-like symptoms will be refused entry.

The statement said that “no prisoner would be granted temporary release who poses an undue risk to public safety”.

Generally prisoner populations often have poor health and underlying conditions – with many inmates coming from poorer backgrounds and having experiences of addiction and homelessness.

This means that prisoners could be especially vulnerable to Covid-19, especially in an environment where there is a movement of staff, visitors and other individuals in and out of the prison.

Infectious diseases often spread easier in prisons, with Hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis all posing a significant risk to inmates.

In 2014, a World Health Organisation report on prisons globally pointed to overcrowding, delays in diagnosis and a limited access to soap and water contributing to a greater risk of infection among prisoners.