IPRT Ebulletin #104
- IPRT: Business as usual
- Prisons and COVID-19: Useful resources
- Programme for Government 2020
- New IPRT report: Disability in Prisons in Ireland
- Add your voice - become a Friend or Member
"We cannot forget prisoners in prisons, they may be serving a sentence but they deserve no less protection under the law than others"
~ WHO Executive Director Dr Michael J Ryan
Dear Members and Friends,
The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented national public health situation for our communities and all society. This includes the 4,200 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.
IPRT is concerned at the very serious implications that current overcrowding will have should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur in Irish prisons. We are engaging directly with all decision-makers on how a significant reduction of the prison population can be safely achieved. The announcement last week that 200 people serving sentences of less than 12 months for non-violent sentences will be released, while welcome, will only bring the population back to January 2020 levels. More needs to be done.
IPRT has consistently raised the issue of increasing prison numbers and chronic crowding in prisons, the urgent need to reduce the number of people detained in prison safely, and the importance of ensuring access to single-cell accommodation for all prisoners. The number of usable operational cells (of differing capacities) across the estate is 3,149 (April 2019). The prison population was near 4,300 the week of 12th March 2020, with over 60 people sleeping on floors in prisons. Significant further actions must be taken to achieve a safe level of occupancy in the prisons.
This is extremely urgent in the current context of COVID-19, 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.
We are also acutely aware that families outside prison will be extremely concerned about their loved ones inside prison at this time. It is important to emphasise the need for firm and swift action without causing undue panic and distress. Upwards of 6,000 children have a parent in prison in Ireland. We have asked the Irish Prison Service to prioritise a number of measures relating to communications and family contact in particular, which you can read here.
The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented situation. The dedication of frontline prison staff, prison medical staff and prison chaplains to providing safe custody, including at the most challenging times such as this is now, must be recognised. Many organisations in the community are also working around the clock to find alternative ways to support people on release from prison, including IASIO, PACE, Care After Prison, Cork Alliance, and many more.
IPRT supports actions taken to date towards prevention and minimising the impact of this crisis on the prison community. We know that more significant action will need to be taken in the coming days, weeks and even months. As it is an evolving situation, we will continue to update our position and information as the situation unfolds: www.iprt.ie
We welcome comments and observations on the ground to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fíona Ní Chinnéide