Minister Charlie Flanagan speaks with Irish Prison Service
The resumption of family visits to prisoners in Portlaoise and other parts of the country, the Minister for Justice has confirmed.
Speaking after the opening of a new Portlaoise Prison Staff Memorial Garden in his home constituency the Minister welcomed the announcement by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) of plans for a phased recommencement of physical family visits to prisons.
"It is really important for prisoners and their families that these visits recommence, but only of course when it is safe to do so. I know that the Irish Prison Service has conducted a comprehensive risk assessment and identified the necessary measures to be put in place. This phased, gradual reopening will be kept under constant review, and staff will ensure appropriate social distancing is occurring in both waiting and visiting areas,” he said in a statement.
The Minister also took the opportunity to thank all Irish Prison Service staff and prisoners for their work to prevent the spread of Covid-19. To date, no prisoner has been infected with COVID-19 and the Irish Prison Service has been internationally recognised for its work in controlling the spread of the virus.
The Department of Justice said the IPS has shared their experience with other countries through the submission of a paper to the World Health Organisation on its approach to the outbreak. ‘Establishing prison-led contact tracing to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons in Ireland’ was published yesterday, 22 June, in the Journal of Public Health by Oxford University Press.
“While a very different threat to those that have gone before, our prisons have faced another tremendous challenge in recent months in combatting Covid-19. I want to publicly recognise the outstanding collective efforts that have been made to date by Irish Prison Service staff, management, prisoners and Red Cross Volunteers during the pandemic and thank them for the great work they have done to ensure our prisons continue to operate smoothly.
"The international recognition of this work is greatly deserved and it is vitally important these efforts should continue in order to maintain this remarkable safety record,” he said.