PRISON visits have been banned as the numbers being granted temporary release continue to rise at Cork prison.
Today, 110 inmates were out on temporary release as the Irish Prison Service continue to create space across the prison system to provide for isolation of inmates in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19. There were 269 in Cork prison today.
It has a bed capacity for 296 inmates.
Under legislation, temporary release can be for just a few hours or for a more extended period. Concerns about overcrowding in Cork were heard at the Prison Officers Association conference in Sligo last May. Throughout the past year, figures in the prison have spiked and the building is regularly at capacity, or overcrowded.
The IPS is now also after moving to ban prison visits, to prevent the disease being brought into the prisons.
A spokesman said arrangements are now being put in place to introduce virtual visits by camera phone or video link.
However, he said the announcement does not impact on professional visits to the prisons.
He said: ''The Irish Prison Service are currently implementing the technology necessary to provide this new process. In addition to assisting the Irish Prison Service in its efforts to prevent the potential introduction of Covid-19 into a prison setting, these electronic visits will also negate the need for visitors to gather in the visitor centres at each prison. This is in line with the recommendations announced this week by the Taoiseach regarding the need to people to desist from gathering in groups of more than 4 people. That announcement also recommended that individuals should only undertake essential travel at this time, by providing electronic visits the Irish Prison Service are able to facilitate vital contact between prisoners and their families while protecting them from the need to travel.''
He added: ''The sheer volume of people entering and exiting our prisons on a daily basis mean effective infection control and vigilance is absolutely essential. Our prisons are home or the place of work of over 7,000 people on a daily basis.''
He said that the Irish Prison Service had taken a number of necessary measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 to the prisons.
He said: ''On the 24th March the Irish Prison Service advised that in consideration of Public Health advice, restrictions on visits would limit prisoners to one 15 minute visit per week with a maximum of two adults, no persons under 18 years of age were permitted into the prison as part of these restrictions.''