On 7th October 2021, co-Chairs of the Action for Children and Families of Prisoners network met with representatives of the Irish Prison Service, including Fergal Black (Director of Care and Rehabilitation), to discuss priorities for children and families of prisoners in Ireland.

The meeting included a discussion of the recommendations made in IPRT’s recent Piecing it Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison report, with a specific focus on:

  • Promoting family contact – including post, video calls and in-cell phones;
  • In-person family visits – including the timeline for unwinding visiting restrictions;
  • Accountability and oversight regarding visits – including visiting conditions, the complaints mechanisms available for families; and
  • Balancing security and rights – including staff training, sniffer dogs and responding to drug-related intimidation.

The collection and publication of robust data on the number of people in prison with dependent children and the role this plays in supporting policy development and appropriate service delivery was a recurring issue explored in Piecing it Together and was also discussed at the meeting. The level of information provided to families was also discussed, with a particular focus on the level of and accessibility of the information provided on via the Irish Prison Service website and information materials.

Action for Children and Families of Prisoners is preparing a submission to the Irish Prison Service public consultation on the review of the Prison Rules, having received a brief extension to the deadline in order to adequately consider issues discussed at this meeting.