The Irish Prison Service (IPS) spend of over €9,000 on the recent installation and subscription of Netflix for prisoners brings to over €800,000 on TV related spending over the past two years.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, the IPS has confirmed that it has cost €8,915 to install the infrastructure for Netflix across 12 prisons and two months use has cost the IPS an additional €240 in subscription fees to date.
Netflix was first installed in prisons on March 29th in response to prisoners having to spend more of their time in their cells due to Covid 19 restrictions and the subscription spend works out at an average of a bargain €10 per month for each prison.
The spend on Netflix is much lower than the outlay of €74,834 for Sky Sports and other channels across the prison system last year and the 2018 spend under the same heading came to €80,055.
A large block of the prison population can watch Netflix on relatively new TV with the IPS spending €642,560 on 3,662 cell TVs over 2019 and 2018.
The IPS last year spent €288,864 on 1,651 cell TVs and €353,714 on 2,011 cell TVs for 2018.
On making Netflix available, a spokesman for the IPS stated: “We were mindful that prisoners would be experiencing less out-of-cell time arising from the COVID-19 restrictions.” He added: “The Emergency Response Planning Team, decided to introduce an extra TV channel as an additional facility for prisoners.” The IPS has recorded one of the major successes in the State response to Covid 19 by keeping the virus out to the prison population through a series of measures.
However, it is not open to prisoners to choose want they want to watch on Netlfix on their cell TVs with the choice being made by management.
Of course, prison management has no shortage of prison-related content from Netflix to put on including Orange is the New Black, Prison Break, Prisoners, Prison Playbook, Doing Hard Time, Let’s Go to Prison and Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons.
The IPS spokesman stated: “Prison Management can broadcast films, programmes or series from Netflix to a single additional channel on the in-cell televisions. The schedule shown on the additional channel is determined by Prison Management in each prison. The prisoners do not have direct access to Netflix to select their own programmes.” He stated: “The success in keeping Covid-19 out of Irish Prisons was down to a wide range of measures addressing the risk presented by Covid-19 in prison.” This included the introduction of a basic health check, including taking of temperatures for all persons, including staff, entering prisons from 29 March and quarantining for 14 days of all newly committed prisoners, in order to reduce the risk that a new committal who might be incubating the virus could spread Covid-19 to the general prison population.
The measures also include the isolation of suspected case or prisoner with symptoms to prevent the risk of transmission of infection and “cocooning” of vulnerable prisoners including all prisoners aged 70 years or more or those that are deemed medically vulnerable;
The spokesman stated: “We continue to manage the risks and challenges faced in a prison during the Covid-19 pandemic in line with public health guidelines. In doing so, we maintain a close working relationship with the Department of Justice and Equality, relevant criminal justice authorities, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).”