Irish Penal Reform Trust

COVID-19 in Prisons

The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented national public health situation for our communities and all society. This includes the men and women currently detained in Irish prisons, the 3,300 people who work in our prisons, and the families of both prisoners and staff on the outside. Given the high number of older people (15% of sentenced prisoners), the higher prevalence of poor health among prison populations, and the existing burden on prison healthcare services, COVID-19 could have devastating consequences for the prison community.

You can find resources and international perspectives below, as well as statements from IPRT and updates on our work. IPRT's core submission on COVID-19 in Irish prisons, based on international evidence and standards, is available to read here (April 2020). Our updated submission, following a year of pandemic-related restrictions in prisons, is available here (April 2021).

If you have questions about the work being undertaken in Irish prisons to control the spread of COVID-19, visit the Irish Prison Service website. Work being undertaken to control the spread of COVID-19 in Oberstown is detailed here. If you have a family member in prison and are seeking support, there are services that can offer assistance here.

UK: Covid-19 and the Criminal Law: House of Commons Justice Committee

24th September 2021

A new report from the House of Commons Justice Committee analyses the impact Covid-19 had on the criminal justice system in England and Wales, and in particular details the lessons that can be learned from how Covid offences were created and enforced during the pandemic.

January 2021 Census Reports

6th August 2021

The Census Reports show a worrying increase in the number of people held in solitary confinement, but a welcome increase in the number of people accommodated in single cells.

First prison inspection reports since the outset of the pandemic published – IPRT

3rd August 2021

MEDIA ADVISORY: Prison inspection reports warn that while restrictions in Irish prisons have limited the spread of COVID-19, a “sense of complacency” could be setting in across prisons, with the Office of the Inspector of Prisons voicing concerns that increased restrictions risk becoming “the new norm”.

Annual report on prisons shows some positives, but robust oversight is lacking – IPRT

30th July 2021

MEDIA ADVISORY: In response to this Annual Report, IPRT is calling for the Minister for Justice to publish all completed COVID-19 Thematic Prison Inspection reports and for the Irish Prison Service to publish prison census data.

Probation Service Annual Report 2020 and Strategy Statement 2021-2023

29th July 2021

One of the main focuses of the Annual Report is on the response of the Probation Service to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northern Ireland: Parental contact allowed during prison visits

20th July 2021

The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) has re-introduced contact between parents and children under 11. This follows the resumption of in-person prison visits in Northern Ireland on 4 May.

UK: HM Inspectorate of Prisons publishes Annual Report 2020-21

20th July 2021

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has released its annual report on prisons in England and Wales for the year 2020-21, covering the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Inspector Charlie Taylor acknowledged that, for those living and working in prisons, this had been “a year like no other”.

Opportunities to improve outcomes for children with a parent in prison are being missed – IPRT

15th July 2021

MEDIA ADVISORY: New report on children and families with a family member in prison in Ireland highlights a number of significant gaps in their treatment.

Prison Chaplain Annual Reports 2020

5th July 2021

Common concerns were raised across these reports. These related primarily to COVID-19 and related restrictions, the numbers and treatment of people with mental health issues being held in prison, and insufficient staffing/resourcing of the Chaplaincy Service.

Office of the Inspector of Prisons COVID-19 Staff Survey: Initial Findings

2nd July 2021

The Office of the Inspector of Prisons (OIP) has published preliminary results from its COVID-19 Staff Survey, developed to capture prison staff experiences of working during the pandemic.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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