Visits to prisons in Portlaoise and elsewhere suspended due to coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

Midlands Prison Portlaoise is one of two jails in the Laois town.

Prison visits to jails in Portlaoise and other jails are to be suspended to help stem the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19.

The announcement was made on Friday, March 27  by Liz Canavan, assistant secretary to the Department of An Taoiseach, who is chair of the Government group that is overseeing the management of the virus.

"The volume of people entering our prisons on a daily basis means effective infection control and vigilance is absolutely essential. Prisons are home or work for over 7,000 people and the Irish Prison Service has taken a number of necessary measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 including the restrictions of visits to prisons. 

"The Irish Prison Service has made every effort to continue to run normal family visits for as long as possible, however, in the best interest of the health and safety of prison staff, prisoners and their families, from tomorrow (Saturday, March 28) normal physical visits will no longer be possible. Physical visits will be replaced by electronic visits via internet platforms, video links and video phones. 

"Electronic visits will negate the need for visitors to, for example, gather in the visitor centre at each prison and are in line with the recommendations announced this week by the Taoiseach," she said.

Apart from tighter restrictions on prison visits the Irish Prison Service has taken other measures in recent weeks including the temporary release of some prisoners.

There were 3,880 prisoners in Irish jails as of Thursday, March 26. A total of 90% of beds in jails are occupied.