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Covid-19: Temporary release of 200 prisoners was 'not an easy decision to make'

Charlie Flanagan says the prisoners pose no risk to the public.

Image: PA

JUSTICE MINISTER CHARLIE FLANAGAN has said that the temporary release of up to 200 prisoners to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading through the country’s jails was not an easy decision to make. 

Flanagan told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that prisoners are being released under “rigorous conditions ” and that none pose a threat to the public. 

“The rigorous conditions are such that determination has been made that none of those been released is a risk to the public, there are conditions attached.

“But it’s absolutely essential that we bear in mind the presence in special circumstances like for now enduring is a high-risk environment, and we need to ensure that there is particular space. For example for isolation, and also that our prisons are safe,” he said.

The Irish Prison Service has already implemented strict visiting restrictions in a bid to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus, including limiting visits to one visit per prisoner per week and not letting any children under 18 visit the prison.  

The measures came after concerns were raised about the ability of overcrowded Irish prisons to cope with the spread of Covid-19. 

There are currently nearly 4,200 people in Ireland’s 13 prisons. 

In 2014, a World Health Organisation report on prisons globally pointed to overcrowding, delays in diagnosis and a limited access to soap and water contributing to a greater risk of infection among prisoners.

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Infectious diseases often spread easier in prisons, with Hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis all posing a significant risk to inmates. 

- With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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