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.

HIQA: Evidence for vaccination of those living or working in crowded conditions

31st March 2021

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a report to inform the national policy on the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to those aged 18-64 years living or working in crowded accommodation, where self-isolation and social distancing are difficult to maintain. This includes prisoners and prison staff.

Irish Examiner: Covid-19 has ‘compounded’ mental health issues for prisoners

19th March 2021

IPRT comment featured in reporting by the Irish Examiner on parliamentary questions relating to mental health and addiction services in prisons.

UK: The Impact of COVID-19 Prison Lockdowns on Children With a Parent in Prison

15th March 2021

A new report by Dr. Shona Minson at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford draws on research undertaken during the first national lockdown and highlights issues faced by children whose parents were in prison during that time.

In the news: Vaccination of prisoners

9th March 2021

IPRT comment featured in print and broadcast media following confirmation from the Department of Health that all prisoners would be vaccinated as part of group nine in the Vaccine Allocation Strategy.

PRI: Why prioritising staff and prison populations for vaccination matters

18th February 2021

In a blog for Penal Reform International, Oxford University researchers consider why prison populations and staff should be prioritised in national vaccination programmes, what is happening internationally so far, and the challenges to their inclusion in some places.

UK: What Happens to Prisoners in a Pandemic

12th February 2021

This thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) explores the effects of the restrictions introduced in prisons in England and Wales during 2020 in response to COVID-19.

Progress in the Penal System: Assessing progress during a pandemic (2020)

26th January 2021

The fourth edition of Progress in the Penal System necessarily took a different approach than in previous years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 experience highlights positive and timely change is possible in Ireland’s prison system - IPRT

25th January 2021

PRESS RELEASE: Improvements made during pandemic threatened by risk of return to ‘old normal’ according to PIPS 2020 report.

Youth (in)justice and the COVID-19 pandemic: rethinking incarceration through a public health lens

18th January 2021

This paper, published by Taylor & Francis Online , focuses on findings from a larger study involving interviews with policy-makers, practitioners and researchers working in youth justice, focusing...

Managing outbreaks of highly contagious diseases in prisons: a systematic review

23rd November 2020

Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford have conducted a systematic review on managing outbreaks of highly contagious diseases in prisons. The results of the research suggest that people in prison should be among the first groups to receive any COVID-19 vaccine to protect against infection and to prevent further spread of the disease.

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

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