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.

Vaccine roll-out in prisons must be met with easing of restrictions

14th June 2021

The Irish Prison Service confirmed to IPRT that mass vaccination commenced on a prison-wide basis on the week of 7th June and is expected to be completed in all 12 prisons within four weeks.

Urgent action needed on reform of prison complaints system, following third successive year of being classed as “unfit for purpose” by Inspector

11th June 2021

MEDIA ADVISORY: IPRT's response to the Office of the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2020. The Annual Report details a number of significant concerns about the current operation of the prison complaints system and repeats the view, similarly expressed in several previous reports, that the system is “unfit for purpose”.

Leaving no one behind? IPRT position on COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in prisons in Ireland

4th June 2021

Here, we summarise our concerns, as communicated to stakeholders, around delays in vaccine roll-out among prisoners.

The Irish Times: Just 2% of prisoners have been vaccinated to date

31st May 2021

IPRT has expressed dismay that men and women in prison appear to have been left behind in Ireland’s pandemic efforts.

Why people living and working in detention facilities should be included in national COVID-19 vaccination plans: advocacy brief

28th May 2021

Developed by WHO Health in Prisons Programme (HIPP), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Penal Reform International (PRI), this brief calls for the inclusion of people living and working in prisons in COVID-19 national vaccination plans.

Global Prison Trends 2021

12th May 2021

This report by Penal Reform International and the Thailand Institute of Justice documents key trends over the past year, especially the impact of the pandemic on prison populations and staff, and how prisons worldwide have responded to these challenges.

UK: Covid-19 Transmission in Prison Settings

23rd April 2021

The research by SAGE presents evidence relating to: COVID-19 related-health outcomes of prisoners and prison staff, information on current control measures employed in prisons and their perceived effectiveness, the potential effectiveness of wider/additional control measures such as increased vaccination, considerations and concerns relating to the onward risk of infections and outbreaks in prisons, and the potential for prisons to become infection amplifiers/reservoirs.

Prison Officers' Association ‘withdrawal of goodwill’

19th April 2021

IPRT does not take any position on labour relations issues. However, in light of our commitment to protecting the human rights of everyone in the penal system, we have serious concerns about the impact of the action on detained people and their families.

Irish Prisons and COVID-19: One Year On

12th April 2021

One year on from the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions, this IPRT briefing outlines what we have learned from the response to the pandemic and the steps that are now required in order to meet human rights obligations and address the effects of COVID-19 on people in prison and their families.

UK: A Record of Our Own - Lockdown Experiences of Ethnic Minority Prisoners

31st March 2021

This report by the Zahid Mubarek Trust (ZMT), in partnership with POPS and the Traveller Movement is an account of the challenges faced by minority ethnic prisoners in prison in England and Wales because of the lockdown measures employed by the prison authorities to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in prisons.

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



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