Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed moves to ease restrictions on visiting prisons
The Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed the announcement by the Northern Ireland Prison Service that in-person visits will re-commence from 4 May.
Naomi Long said:
“I want to pay tribute to the Prison Service and our partners for the work they have done during the pandemic to keep people safe.
“The decision to re-introduce in-person visits is to be welcomed and follows the careful approach being taken in the community to ensure the recovery is done in a safe and sustainable way.”
Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Ronnie Armour said:
“The re-introduction of in-person visits is an important step for everyone in our prisons. I fully understand the importance of family engagement in maintaining relationships and supporting rehabilitation. In the last year virtual visits have been hugely successful with almost 40,000 visits taking place, including on Christmas Day and that facility will continue.
“As the community went into lock down after Christmas, the decision was necessary to suspend visits. However, as the community gradually begins to open up, it is only right that we in the Prison Service take our cautious first steps towards recovery.
“We will of course remain vigilant to the risk of the virus and this decision will be kept under review. However, I know this decision will be welcome news to the people in our care and their families.”
The guidance for in-person visits includes:
➢ Where possible virtual visiting remains the preferred option.
➢ Anyone showing or experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or any other infection should not visit, even if these symptoms are mild and unconfirmed or the individual has received one or both vaccines.
➢ Visitors must rigorously follow public health hygiene advice – washing hands before and after visits, using hand sanitiser gel and maintain social distancing.
➢ Only one visitor is permitted to visit at a time.
➢ At this stage, children under the age of 16 will not be permitted to visit. In the event of exceptional circumstances, this can be raised through the internal request mechanism.
➢ Visitors will be required to undertake a temperature check upon entry to any prison establishment.