01 Jul 2022

System outlined for restoration of visits to Portlaoise Prison

Report highlights concerns over mental health of prisoners and sentencing of women

Portlaoise Prison inmates set to be among the first to enjoy a return of visits

Vaccinated inmates at Portlaoise Prison are set to enjoy a the return of physical visitors to the high security Laois jail.

The Irish Prison Service physical visits to prisons will take place on a phased prison by prison basis with visits resuming seven days after prisoners have been fully vaccinated.

A vaccination programme commenced on June 9, on a prison by prison basis, with vaccinations being administered by the National Ambulance Service, supported by Irish Prison Service health care teams to all prisoners, and unvaccinated staff under 40 years of age. While the schedule is agreed with the HSE it is subject to change and outside the control of the Irish Prison Service.

It says the recommencement of physical visits to prisons is aligned to the schedule of the vaccination programme currently being rolled out across all prisons in our estate.

A state3ment said physical visits would recommence in Wheatfield Prison on July 14 and in Portlaoise Prison on July 16.

The Irish Prison Service said it is implementing a new Framework for the Unwinding of Prison Restrictions which is informed by the recent Government Plan for reopening our society, and set out in Resilience and Recovery: The Path Ahead.

"The Irish Prison Service fully appreciates how important contact with family is to prisoners and is committed to the early return of physical visits," said a statement.

The service added that the recommencement of visits will be subject to ongoing risk assessments and will take account of Public Health advice; the range of Government restrictions in place and other factors, including the prevailing transmission rate in the community.

It said all visitors will continue to be subject to the Covid-19 screening procedures which have been in place since March 2020. MORE BELOW LINK.

The service says visitors are requested not to attend a prison in the following circumstances:

  • If you have any Covid-19 symptoms;
  • If you t have been in contact with a person who requires a Covid-19 test;
  • If you have tested positive for Covid-19 and have yet to be cleared from isolating by your doctor;
  • If you have been abroad in the preceding fortnight to the scheduled visit.

The service said all prisoners will be entitled to receive one physical family visit per fortnight, of not more than 15 minutes duration.

Prisoners may opt for two 20 minutes video visits if preferred. Prisoners who avail of a physical visit, will be also be entitled to one video visit of not more than 20 minutes duration per fortnight.

Physical visits will be limited to two visitor’s one adult and one child (under 18 years of age). No property or cash will be accepted during prison visits.

In order to prevent the potential spread of infection, the service says all visitors will be behind Perspex screens and visitors will be required to wear a face covering at all times.

Physical contact between prisoners and family members will be permitted.

All visitors who are clean shaven will be issued with a prison issue surgical mask prior to entry to the prison.

If any visitor is not clean shaven a higher specification of PPE is mandatory – an FFP2 mask must be worn and covered with a surgical mask, a visor must also be worn.

If any visitor refuses to comply with the wearing of prison issue PPE they will not be allowed entry to the prison.

The Service says the operation and frequency of visits will be kept under ongoing review guided both by HSE, Public Health advice and a desire to support as much contact as possible between prisoners and their families. Detailed information for families in relation to the operation of visits and booking system is available on the Irish Prison Service website


The Irish Prison Service is aiming to resume physical visits by the end of July for the following prisons, Loughan House, Arbour Hill, Shelton Abbey, Mountjoy, Dochas and Castlerea Prisons. This will be dependent on the rollout of the vaccination programme and the infection levels of Covid-19 with in the community.

  • The Irish Prison Service says it has introduced a range of measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid -19 into prisons including:
  • The introduction of a basic health check, including taking of temperatures for all persons, including staff, entering prisons from 29 March;
  • Suspension of physical family visits, replaced by the introduction of video visits;
  • Quarantining for 10 days of all newly committed prisoners, in order to reduce the risk that a new committal who might be incubating the virus could spread Covid-19 to the general prison population;
  • Isolation of suspected case or prisoner with symptoms to prevent the risk of transmission of infection;
  • Comprehensive training for IPS staff and the provision of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across the prison estate;
  • Strong communication with staff and prisoners, including two prison newsletters published regularly with Covid-19 information for prisoners and newsletters for staff regarding actions taken; and
  • Establishment of a robust contract-tracing model which has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as best practice.
  • The introduction of new electronic money transfer arrangements and An Post BillPay Service to allow families to lodge money to prisoner accounts.

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