Home > Irish prisons and covid-19: one year on.

Irish Penal Reform Trust. (2021) Irish prisons and covid-19: one year on. Dublin: Irish Prison Reform Trust.

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March 2021 marked the anniversary of Ireland’s pandemic response and the introduction of the first COVID-19 restrictions in Irish prisons. While the Irish Prison Service, prison staff and prisoners are to be commended for working together to keep the number of COVID-19 cases in Irish prisons low to date, there is no doubt that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on people in prison.

One year on, this IPRT briefing outlines what we have learned from the response to the pandemic and the steps that are now required in order to meet human rights obligations and address the effects of COVID-19 on people in prison and their families. While the principles contained in our Irish prisons and COVID-19: Proposed Measures April 2020 briefing still apply, IPRT here examines the actions that need to be taken now and into the future, under the following headings:

  1. Reducing the prison population
  2. Access to healthcare
  3. Easing of restrictions in prisons
  4. Preparing for release
  5. Accountability

Under each of these headings, IPRT outlines a range of issues in need of review, including sentencing practices, parole, vaccination, mental health, plans for easing restrictions, family visits, release planning, inspection and parliamentary oversight. In total, we make 17 total recommendations for action as the pandemic continues.

While the full effects of the pandemic on the criminal justice system cannot yet be known, we can act now to minimise the harmful impact of the restrictions imposed and seize the opportunities for progressive penal reform that have arisen.

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