IN-CELL phones were provided for inmates of Cork prison during the past year to help them retain contact with their families during the Covid-19 restrictions.
The measure was highlighted in a new report from the Irish Penal Reform Trust, called Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) - Assessing progress during a pandemic.
The report noted: “The roll-out of video calls and in-cell phone provision in parts of the prison estate are positive features that emerged from the crisis, and should be retained as supplementary to prison visits.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said that inmates are allowed two phone calls a day, and the duration depends on what regime they are on.
He stressed that while phones have been placed in cells, they cannot be activated on a 24/7 basis.
Inmates are also allowed one video call a week.
According to the IPRT report, almost 600 video calls were made in the prison between May 26 and July 7.
The IPS spokesman said the video calls allow inmates to see their families and to talk to more than one person on a call.
Highlighting quarantining of new inmates committed to prisons, the report said: “Quarantine should be used only as medically necessary, and these procedures should result in living conditions clearly distinct from those found in solitary confinement. The highest numbers quarantining, as would be expected, in the committal prisons:Cloverhill, Midlands, Cork and Mountjoy.”
It added: “Lengths of time in quarantine were dependent on the return of tests, which at the height of the pandemic took 10-14 days. This has been reduced in line with waiting times in the community with a turnaround time of 24 to 36 hours.”