Temperature screening has been introduced by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) at entrances to all prisons here in a bid to stop the spread of Coronavirus into the prison system.
The IPS introduced the measure on Sunday across all 12 sites including Mountjoy, the Midlands, Arbour Hill, Cork and Limerick prisons.
Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Prison Officers’ Association (IPOA), Gabriel Keaveny, said today that prison staff “are very much re-assured by the introduction of temperature screening”.
Along with all staff, prisoners and other visitors to prison having their temperature taken, teams of IPS operational group staff also ask those entering prisons a series of health related questions.
Temperature screening on the way in to public buildings, restaurants, bars and other privately owned enterprises in China, South Korea and Singapore has been an important tool in containing coronavirus in those countries.
The move by the IPS follows the service ending all prison visits for prisoners at the weekend.
A spokesman for the IPS said today that the Prison Service is home or a place of work, across 12 sites, to more than 7,000 people living and working together in proximity with a high risk of transmitting infection.
He said: “Facilities such as showers, toilets, tables and equipment such as gym equipment are shared.
Difficulties do exist in implementing social distancing on the basis that over 52% of prisoners share cells.
He said that the introduction of temperature screening follows the World Health Organisation (WHO) issuing guidance to governments concerning prisons and containing Covid-19.
The spokesman stated that the guidance “recognised the distinctive challenges facing prisons and recommending that screening should be undertaken at the point of entry and that persons checked should be prisoners, visitors and prison staff”.
The spokesman said that, in line with the WHO advice and in consultation with the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the screening commenced on Sunday.
He said: “The Irish Prison Service has introduced a number of measures on a phased and proportionate basis to help meet the challenges posed by Covid-19.
“This has included the reduction of the prison population through the judicious use of temporary release and the restriction and more recently the suspension of visits to prisons, in line with NPHET advice.”
The figures show that since March 12 when the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announcement Government moves aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the numbers on temporary release has increased by 222 to 535 and the numbers in custody has reduced from 4,214 to 3,884.
Mr Keaveny stated that there has never been as much engagement between the IPOA and the IPS on any issue as Covid-19.
He said that in response to Covid-19, the regime in prisons now has “very, very controlled movement” of prisoners, while all education and all workshops have ceased.
He said: “We are trying to encourage social distancing as much as possible.
“There have been fairly significant changes in work practices and prisoner officers have stepped up to the plate and we are very proud of the work they are doing.”