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Prison Service

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 June 2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Questions (512)

Richard Boyd Barrett


512. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to groups providing advocacy services to prisoners currently serving sentences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29348/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Irish Prison Service currently has a range of rehabilitative, therapeutic and counselling services available for prisoners at all times. I can inform the Deputy that I am also aware that prisoners have access to some additional external community based in-reach services who provide community-based offender support, and peer support services and programmes.

The Deputy will understand that in line with public health guidelines and to limit the spread of Covid-19 within our prisons, in-person visits have had to be suspended periodically over the past year. As such, since the start of the pandemic, it has not always been possible to permit consistent access to prisons for the external community-based organisations. 

The Irish Prison Service is currently carrying out a risk assessment to determine when and how the restrictions put in place in recent months can be eased, while controlling the risk of the spread of infection and ensuring good order and security in the prisons.

The risk assessment currently being undertaken includes reviewing the physical access for community-based organisations that provide in-reach services to prisons, including Traveller peer support services, prison links workers and visitor centre supports. Where possible, video-link appointments with some of the external community-based services have been facilitated in line with the recommendations of the prisoner’s sentence plan and identified needs. 

It should be noted that prison-based services, including prisoner healthcare, training and education services, psychology, addiction counselling services and resettlement services continue to be available within the prisons. To mitigate against the impact of these services not being consistently available in a traditional manner, I understand the Prison Service has put in place a dedicated phone service for prisoners to reach out to chaplains, psychologists and addiction counsellors and that it has increased the use of technology to ensure these essential services continue.

The Prison Service has continued to facilitate access to prisons and prisoners for those organisations with a statutory role such as the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and Prison Visiting Committees to ensure continued oversight during the pandemic.

If there is a particular advocacy group the Deputy would like to bring to my attention and that of the Prison Service I would be happy to receive that information.