A new service is to be introduced to allow the families of prisoners in Portlaoise and other jails to to pay money at the counter in any post office for the benefit of their relative in prison.
The project, which is a collaboration between the Irish Prison Service and An Post, was announced by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD. A statement said it would bring real and practical benefits for prisoners and their families.
The Department of Justice said the initiative will allow prisoners’ families to provide small amounts of money to help their relative in prison purchase items like toiletries, cigarettes, newspapers, confectionery and magazines from the prison tuck shop. It said this is particularly important as prison visits have been restricted as a result of Covid-19.
A statement said the new service is also part of a wider drive within the Irish Prison Service to modernise and move to electronic systems, in line with the Government’s ‘E-Agenda’.
“The restrictions on movements as a result of Covid-19 have been hard on all our communities but especially hard on prison families as they are further separated from their loved ones," said Minister Flanagan.
"The Irish Prison Service has moved quickly to introduce a number of new and innovative initiatives aimed at helping families support their loved ones who are in prison.
“The introduction of video visits, electronic money transfers and now this new An Post BillPay Card service have all allowed families to support prisoners by keeping in contact and by providing funds for use in prison tuck shops without having to travel long distances to prisons.
“I want to commend the officials in the Irish Prison Service and An Post for working together to devise this innovative solution which will not only serve families and prisoners during the current crisis but will have longstanding benefits into the future.”
Debbie Byrne is Managing Director of An Post Retail.
“An Post is delighted to have been able to come up with this new, practical payment solution to assist prisoners and their families.’
“We have been able to match An Post’s unparalleled reach in every community with our strong technology and counter systems in an agile fashion to meet the changing needs of citizens and government. This is a great example of An Post’s approach to being human about money.’
"The level of co-operation between An Post and the Irish Prison Service and the speed with which the new system had been put in place were a credit to both organisations, he said. ‘This was an example of what could be achieved right across the public service,” said Ms Byrne.
Any prisoner who wishes to participate, can nominate one family member who will receive a BIllPay Card in the post. The nominated person can then bring the BillPay Card to their local post office and make a payment by cash or debit card. The service is private and confidential as the nature and destination of the transaction is masked, protecting both the payee and the recipient.
The new payment option was introduced in post offices this week and is currently being rolled out throughout the prison system.
Key additional info
• Prisoners receive a daily gratuity payment dependent on their prison regime. The payments are €0.95c on basic, €1.70c on standard and €2.20c on enhanced.
• Prisoners use this payment to purchase necessities in prison tuck shops ie chocolate, toiletries, cigarettes.
• Prisoners do not have access to social welfare while in custody
• The Irish Prison Service introduced a facility to lodge money to prisoner accounts via electronic money transfer utilising banking apps in March 2020.
• The Irish Prison Service has introduced visits by video link for families in response to Covid-19.
• Full details of Irish Prison Service response to Covid 19 is available on www.irishprisons.ie
• The BillPay Service is used as a payment mechanism for Local Authority Charges and other household utility bills at the post office. BillPay covers some 17m transactions each year to a value of almost €1.2bn.