Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Questions (943)

Catherine Connolly


943. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of recorded self-harm incidents in prisons by gender from 12 March 2020 to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15536/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that there were 36 reported incidents of self harm across the prison estate from 12 March 2020 to the end of June 2020. I am further informed that 33 of these reported incidents occurred within the male prison population and three within the female population. It is important to note that these are provisional figures as the full analysis of such incidents has not yet begun.

I would like to assure the Deputy that provision of safe and secure custody and dignity of care to persons in the penal system in Ireland is a priority for me as Minister and for the Irish Prison Service. Safe and secure custody is one of the key pillars of the Prison Service Strategic Plan 2019-2022.

The Irish Prison Service has during the Covid-19 pandemic introduced a number of new initiatives to assist and safeguard the welfare of those in custody. Measures to allow prisoners maintain contact with families and benefit from family support include:

- provision of additional phone calls for prisoners;

- introduction of Electronic Funds Transfer and An Post Bill Pay service to allow families to continue to lodge money to prisoner accounts; and

- introduction of virtual visits, through the installation of video phone facilities in all prisons to allow for video-calls with families.

In addition, a national telephone helpline has been established to support access for prisoners to IASIO Resettlement, Chaplaincy, Psychology and Merchants Quay Ireland by telephone.

I can further inform the Deputy that the Prison Service Psychology Service provides a platform to listen and support prisoners to mind their psychological well-being. I am informed that the Psychology Service has adapted its services to ensure ongoing support to prisoners and that tele-psychology has been introduced to all prisoners in custody. This typically consists of 20 minute telephone sessions. Support may be offered within the framework of Psychological First Aid or within other relevant psychological frameworks. The goal is to help prisoners feel safe, reduce stress, restore rest and sleep, and connect them to social support.