23rd June 2020
Almost three months after physical visits to Irish prisons were completely suspended, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed the publication of plans for the gradual reintroduction of physical family visits to prisons by the Irish Prison Service. The plans, published this evening (23.06.2020), outline that visits are set to recommence on a phased basis from Monday 20 July 2020.
Welcoming the announcement, IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said:
“While the suspension of physical visits was a necessary measure in response to the risks posed by COVID-19, it has been incredibly tough on both prisoners and their families. It has been a deeply worrying time for families anxious about the health of their loved one in prison, and for people in prison feeling helpless concern for their families in the community. For people in prison and their families, each form of contact with loved ones can be a lifeline.
“One of the positives to have come out of the response to COVID-19 in Irish prisons is the national roll-out of family video visits as an alternative to physical visits. What was once not possible pre-COVID-19, became possible in a matter of weeks thanks to innovation and collaboration.
“The national roll-out of video visits has meant that there are children who, some for the first time, are now able to show their parents their bedrooms, ask for help with their homework, or see their parent’s face while they sit down to eat dinner. While plans to safely recommence physical visits must be a priority, it is crucial that video visits are retained even after physical visits are resumed fully. However, video visits should be an option used to supplement contact and support maintenance of positive relationships, and not as a replacement for physical visits. Provision of in-cell phones across the closed estate would further support family contact, and uphold the rights of children to have regular contact with their parent.”
The plans published this evening by the Irish Prison Service state that ”the operation and frequency of visits will be kept under ongoing review” and guided by Public Health advice. As we have experienced across other areas of society, IPRT is hopeful that this timeline could possibly be accelerated if infection rates remain low and if public health advice allows.
For further comment or to arrange interview, please contact Pamela or Fíona at: +353 87 181 2990
NOTES TO EDITORS