Ireland among 20 top countries for vaccinating prisoners

Ireland among 20 top countries for vaccinating prisoners

Ireland is one of only 20 countries in the world where more than 80 per cent of prisoners had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccination by the end of September 2021, according to a new report.

The first-ever in-depth review of policies and practices related to Covid-19 vaccination in prisons across 177 countries was published yesterday by Penal Reform International and Harm Reduction International.

The 20 countries where at least 80 per cent of prisoners had been provided with at least one dose are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Chile, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Malta, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland.

However, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) said Ireland’s strong performance on prison vaccinations had not translated into a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in prisons, which continue to have a severely detrimental impact on the mental health, family contact and access to rehabilitative regimes of those imprisoned.

Executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said: “The rate of vaccination in Irish prisons is comparatively high, thanks to the significant efforts of prison staff working with the Irish Red Cross prisoner members to engage and inform people in prison.

“However, for the approximately 85 per cent of men and women in prison who have been vaccinated, the ‘vaccine bonus’ is not being felt. Access to out-of-cell time, education and training, family visits and rehabilitative services continues to be limited almost two years into the pandemic.

“The minister for justice acknowledged in the Dáil in recent weeks that keeping people in prison under severe lockdown is not the way forward because we must ‘live with Covid-19’. We welcome this. We cannot accept these ongoing restrictions in prison as part of life with Covid-19.”

She added: “The situation in Ireland’s prisons was addressed as an emergency early in the pandemic, with considerable efforts applied to safely reduce the prison population. However, it is still an emergency, and the same level of urgency needs to be applied now.

“Yesterday, there were 80 spaces available across Ireland’s two open prisons. Open prisons play an important role in rehabilitation, and maximising this resource would improve access to rehabilitative regimes for the people assessed as suitable for the move.

“It would also make it easier to reduce and manage outbreaks of Covid-19 within closed prisons, and free up resources to facilitate greater access to services in those prisons.”

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