Minister Flanagan publishes Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2019
- Minister praises work of all IPS staff and prisoners in combating threat of COVID-19
- Further information on the gradual recommencement of visits will be provided in the coming weeks
15 June 2020
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today published the Annual Report of the Irish Prison Service for 2019.
Drawing particular attention to the establishment by the IPS of a fully resourced infection control policy in 2019, the Minister pointed out the extent to which that work has since proven invaluable in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also praised the work of all IPS staff and prisoners in combating the threat of the virus.
Minister Flanagan said,
“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 COVID-19 pandemic and thank them for the great work they have done to ensure our prisons continue to operate smoothly.
“The new infection prevention and control teams that were put in place in all prisons in 2019 have made a significant contribution to the successful handling of the virus and this work is something which should be particularly commended. It is vitally important these efforts should continue in order to maintain this remarkable safety record.”
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 IPS has now shared their experience with other countries through the submission of a paper to the World Health Organisation on its approach to the outbreak.
In line with the Government Roadmap, and with infection control in mind, the Minister also noted that the IPS has started to assess the ability of each prison to plan for the resumption of some family visits with appropriate safeguards in place.
The Minister added,
“The Irish Prison Service is committed to reintroducing physical visits as soon as it is safe to do so. While no date has been agreed, we all fully understand how important contact with family is. Arrangements that will be put in place have yet to be finalised, but our colleagues in the IPS will provide further information, and a date for the gradual recommencement of visits, to prisoners and their families in the coming weeks.”
The Minister also noted that the Irish Prison Service will provide further updates on the important measures that will be put in place to ensure that visiting a prison will be safe for prisoners, families, staff and other service providers, once those physical visits recommence.
The Annual Report also notes the continuing pressure on the prison system from the rise in prisoner numbers over recent years. When fine committals are excluded, the number of committals to prison under sentence increased by 10.8% (or 473) from 2018 to 2019. Meanwhile the number of prisoners held on remand in 2019 rose by 5%. Three quarters of all committals under sentence in 2019 were for sentences of 12 months or less.
Minister Flanagan concluded:
“I am very conscious of the increasing numbers in custody over recent years, and in particular the rise in offenders committed to sentences of less than 12 months. These statistics underline the potential benefits and scope to extend the use of community service orders, which oblige an offender – if assessed as suitable – to address their offending behaviour by carrying out unpaid work in the community.
“This is something which I would hope the newly established Judicial Council might consider through its Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee.”
A copy of the Irish Prison Service’s Annual Report for 2019 is available HERE