Just six inmates cocooning in Ireland’s prisons in massive drop since June
The figures were provided by the Irish Prison Service in response to questions from the Irish Mirror
Just six inmates in Ireland’s prisons were “cocooning” last week – a staggering 95% drop compared to the number cocooning in June, new figures show.
Figures released to the Irish Mirror reveal that only six prisoners had plumped for optional cocooning as of last Wednesday, ahead of an outbreak of cases in Midlands Prison on Friday.
On 9 June, when case numbers in Ireland were far lower, there were 132 prisoners cocooning across Ireland’s prison estate.
The figures show far more inmates were cocooning back in June – raising questions about the scope for Covid-19 transmission between inmates in Ireland’s prisons.
The figures were provided by the Irish Prison Service in response to questions posed by the Irish Mirror.
They’re based on weekly reports into the number of inmates who’ve opted to cocoon as Covid-19 cases have spiralled across Ireland.
This week’s report – which will emerge on Wednesday, days after five cases of Covid-19 were reported in the Midlands Prison in Co Laois – is expected to show a jump in the number of prisoners who are choosing to cocoon.
During Ireland’s first lockdown, cocooning in Ireland’s prisons was mandatory for prisoners aged 70 or over and for those deemed medically vulnerable due to serious underlying health conditions.
The practice ceased in June in line with the easing of Government restrictions across the country, and has not been re-implemented on a compulsory basis, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service told the Irish Mirror.
The spokesperson added that prisoners now “have the option to cocoon or the option of a restricted regime at their own request.”
When cocooning was mandatory, those affected “were removed from free association, but could associate with one another in dedicated areas,” the spokesperson said.
The outbreak in the midlands last Friday was the first time Covid-19 had hit inmates already serving sentences in an Irish prison.
In response to the positive cases, all inmates were pencilled in for Covid-19 tests in an attempt to stifle the spread of the virus.
The Irish Prison Service said the five prisoners have been isolated in line with infection control procedures and contact tracing is ongoing.
But a leading prisons charity warned that a reduction of the numbers in custody across the prison estate is necessary if further outbreaks are to be avoided.
A spokesperson for the Irish Penal Reform Trust called the spate of cases “concerning”, and demanded a reduction in the numbers in custody “in order to minimise cell sharing”.