PRISON visits are not expected to resume in Cork prison until at least next month according to the Junior Justice Minister, Hildegarde Naughton.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question by Réada Cronin of Sinn Féin, Ms Naughton said that the return of prison visits and the easing of other prison Covid-19 restrictions is a priority for the Irish Prison Service and for the department.
She said: “On 9 June, a full prison vaccination programme commenced on a phased prison by prison basis. Vaccinations are being administered by the National Ambulance Service, supported by Prison Service health care teams to all prisoners, and unvaccinated staff under 40 years of age.
“In line with the vaccination schedule, physical visits to prisons will recommence on a phased prison by prison basis with visits resuming seven days after prisoners have been fully vaccinated. To date, nine prisons have received their first round of vaccinations with the remaining three prisons scheduled in the coming weeks.”
“I am advised that, under the current vaccination schedule, it is expected that visits will have recommenced in eight prisons by the end of July with visits returning to the remaining four locations in August and September (Midlands, Limerick, Cloverhill and Cork Prisons).”
“However, it is also important to note that this will be subject to consideration of infection and hospitalisation levels in the community, given the increased concern surrounding the Delta variant,” she said.
On Thursday, the Irish Penal Reform Trust highlighted the issue of prison visits in its report, Piecing It Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison in Ireland. “In normal times, separation from an imprisoned parent is an identified trauma experienced by children and the last year has seen this trauma multiplied. Many of these children have not had any physical contact at all with their parent since early March 2020,” said trust executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide.