The Irish Prison Service continues to follow the instructions set out in the HSE’s official communications in respect of the risks associated with COVID-19.
We continue to operate all prison services, including visits. We are not imposing visitor restrictions at the moment, however to prevent the spread of the disease, restrictions may be introduced at a later stage. The situation is being monitored closely and we will keep the public informed at the earliest notice of any measures that may have to be introduced to prevent the risk of infection entering the prison.
It is not possible to outline our planned response to every public health scenario. However, we have an Emergency Response Planning Team are continually updating contingency plans in order to meet the demands of COVID-19.
Contingency plans by their nature are highly operational and in order to maintain the safety and security of prisons, the Irish Prison Service will not be publicising detailed contingency plans.
We will use the Irish Prison Service Website and our Twitter account to provide updates.
Preventing the spread of infectious diseases in prisons is both a public health concern and a human rights imperative.
As the risk related to COVID-19 escalates, the Irish Prison Service has increased its level of preparedness across the whole prison estate and is taking necessary steps to mitigate against the risk of COVID-19 entering the prison, and, should a risk materialise, putting in place procedures for containment and control.
The Irish Prison Service has existing emergency and contingency plans in place to respond and enable continuity of services. This includes maintaining the safety and security of prisoners and the public, and provision of essential services which includes staffing, healthcare, catering and maintenance.
There is an existing Infection & Prevention Control Programme in the Irish Prison Service which aims to minimise the spread of infection among staff and prisoners within the prison and includes the following:
- Identify possible infection in incoming prisoners at reception;
- Report suspected infection in prisoners and staff to Healthcare Team when identified;
- Effectively manage infection when identified;
- Adopt reasonable precautions, to mitigate against the threat of infection;
- Work with key external agencies Court Services, Gardai, HSE to promote best practices, share relevant information and minimise risks prior to any direct contact with the Irish Prison Service.
Building on the above, and specific to the COVID-19 issue, the Irish Prison Service has worked closely and continues to work closely with the Department of Justice and Equality, relevant criminal justice authorities and the HSE to adopt measures that are in line with public policy and the evolving situation.
The service has also:
- initiated an Emergency Response Planning Team which includes the Executive Clinical Lead, the Infection Control Manager, and the National Nurse Manager;
- identified areas as possible hazard points in prisons which may contribute to the spread of infection among staff, prisoners and visitors and to the wider community;
- established a communication programme on COVID-19, in line with HSE/HPSC Guidance, which has been distributed to all Irish Prison Service staff;
- an educational module on COVID-19 has been completed by all operational staff (which includes instruction on the correct donning and doffing procedures for Personal Protective Equipment [PPE]);
- secured supplies of PPE, hand sanitisers, soap and hand held thermometers in preparation for the introduction of more robust screening procedures, possible suspect or confirmed cases in prisons.
As the risk associated with this virus escalates, the Irish Prison Service are reviewing necessary measures to address risks and issues that may be necessary for the screening processes of newly committed prisoners, visitors, staff, contractors and in-reach service providers to the prison service and other matters.