Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed the announcement by the Northern Ireland Prison Service that contact will be allowed between parents and children under 11 during prison visits from July 19.
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. In Northern Ireland, we set the benchmark on handling the virus, with no Covid-19 related deaths.
“I fully appreciate this has been an incredibly difficult time for the people in our care, particularly those who have young children. Today’s decision is a welcome one and is reflective of the careful approach being taken in the community to ensure a safe and sustainable recovery.”
Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Ronnie Armour said: “The re-introduction of contact between parents and children under 11 during 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 more than 50,000 visits taking place, including on Christmas Day, and that facility continues.
“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 adult and one child are permitted to visit at a time.
- Visitors will be required to undertake a temperature check upon entry to any prison establishment.
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