Visiting someone in prison
If a member of your family is in prison, visits can help you stay in contact and maintain a healthy relationship. You can also keep in touch by letter and your family member can contact you by telephone.
Prison visits are important to maintain relationships and support the prisoner's mental wellbeing. Stable family relationships and community ties have also been recognised as important factors in helping with the resettlement and reintegration of prisoners in civil society.
The rules governing prison visits in Ireland are set out in sections 35-50 of Prison Rules, 2007.
You can find out more about the process of requesting a professional visit to a prisoner on the Irish Prison Service website.
The Irish Prison Service has reintroduced physical visits. Prisoners can have a video visit instead of a physical visit if they prefer.
A maximum of 5 persons are allowed per visit with a maximum of 3 adults. You must wear a face covering.
You can continue to arrange video visits using the Irish Prison Service website.
How to arrange a visit
A minimum of 48 hours’ notice must be given when requesting a visit to any prison in Ireland.
Visits can be requested online, over the phone or, in some cases, in person at the visitors’ centre. You can read the Irish Prison Service’s Family Information Booklet for information (pdf) about how visits work.
When submitting an online request for a visit, you must provide:
- The name and PRIS number of the prisoner you wish to visit, and whether you wish to visit in person or online
- Your name, date of birth, address, email and telephone number
- Details of any extra visitors coming with you (if any)
- Up to 2 proposed visit times and dates
- The number of children you will bring (if any)
A visit is not confirmed until a formal email is received confirming the date and time of the intended visit from the prison. This should be printed off and brought with you to the prison when visiting.
How visits work
In most cases, a prisoner can nominate at least 6 people who may visit them. If you are not on the list, it is unlikely that you be able to arrange a visit. This is the case irrespective of your relationship to the prisoner, and a prisoner does not have to meet with a visitor.
You must bring valid photo identification to the prison, such as a current passport or driver’s license. If you don’t, you may be refused entry.
You must also identify the prisoner you are visiting and provide details of your relationship to them.
Airport-style walk-through detectors and x-ray scanners are installed in every closed prison in Ireland, and sniffer dogs from the Garda Canine Unit may also be present for the purposes of detecting banned substances.
You may be searched to ensure that you are not in possession of prohibited materials upon entering the prison. The search must be carried out with due regard to your decency and it must be conducted by at least 2 prison guards of your gender.
If you do not consent to be searched, the governor can refuse you entry to the prison.
What can I take into a prison?
Visitors are required to deposit their phones and any personal items in the area provided at the visitors centre before entering the prison.
If you want to give something to your family member, you must check that it is permitted by the prison in advance. Anything you take in must be handed to the officer in charge of visits.
You will not be allowed to enter a prison if you are carrying any of following items:
- Mobile phones or chargers
- Any item which could be used as a weapon, particularly sharp items
- Medicines and drugs, including prescription drugs
All prisons implement certain measures to regulate and monitor visits in the interests of health and safety. Most visits are supervised in sight, but not in hearing.
For example, while prisons must provide facilities to allow a prisoner and visitor to see and talk to one another, the visit may be screened with the use of glass, or other types of screens, to prevent physical contact.
It is at the discretion of the prison governor to allow physical contact between a prisoner and a visitor when they are satisfied that such contact will not facilitate the entry into the prison of controlled drugs or other prohibited articles or substances.
The Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas has published a guide (pdf) on how to get the most out of a prison visit, including advice on planning visits and respecting prison rules.
Children visiting a prison
In most cases, anyone under the age of 18 who is visiting a prison must be accompanied by an adult.
Due to prison security measures and the regulated nature of visits, it can often be a stressful experience for a child to visit somebody in prison. It can be beneficial, therefore, to prepare a child on what to expect when visiting a prison.
You can read the Irish Prison Service’s Family Information Booklet (pdf) for information about how visits work.
Money transfers to prisoners’ accounts
You can transfer funds to people in prison. All transactions should be completed within 2 to 5 working days.
For general queries about lodging money into a prisoner’s account, you can email PAMSCash@irishprisons.ie.
An Post BillPay Card
Your relative or friend in prison must nominate you as a person who can receive An Post BillPay card (pdf) from the Irish Prison Service.
Once you receive the BillPay Card, you can call in to any post office in Ireland, hand the BillPay Card in at the counter and lodge funds in cash or by debit card.
You will be given a receipt, which you should keep as proof of payment. The maximum transaction is €200. The card may be shared by family members to send funds to the person in custody.
You can also transfer funds from your bank account to that of a friend or relative in prison by bank transfer (pdf).
You can do this through your bank’s website or app, or by calling into your bank. The maximum transaction is €200 and any payment over this amount will be returned.
To make the transfer, you will need:
- The Irish Prison Service’s BIC and IBAN (pdf), and
- The prisoner ID number, which should be entered into the reference box for the transaction (if not entered or entered incorrectly, the person in custody cannot receive the funds)
Rights and entitlements of prisoners
The visitation entitlements of prisoners vary based on their custodial status.
The Irish Prison Service also operates an Incentivised Regimes Policy, rewarding prisoners for good behaviour with increased visitation and other entitlements. You can read more about the Incentivised Regimes Policy (pdf).
You can also learn more about prisoners’ rights and entitlements in our page on prison conditions.
Physical or online visits
Prisoners are entitled to receive at least one family visit per week, which can be either online or in person. If the visit is online, it can last up to 20 minutes.
The following rules apply for physical visits:
- A sentenced prisoner who is 18 or over is allowed a minimum of one 30 minute visit from relatives or friends each week
- A sentenced prisoner who is under 18 is allowed a minimum of 2, 30 minute visits from relatives or friends each week
- A remand prisoner is allowed one visit per day from relatives or friends for at least 15 minutes a minimum of 3 times a week
A remand prisoner is someone who has yet to be convicted of a criminal offence and is remanded in custody while awaiting trial. You can read more about the rights of remand prisoners.
The governor of a prison can allow for additional or longer visits where circumstances permit. They may also prohibit a prisoner from receiving visitors.
Subject to the availability of facilities:
- A convicted prisoner who is 18 or over is entitled to make at least one telephone call per week to a family member or friend
- A convicted prisoner under 18 is entitled to make at least 2 telephone calls per week to a family member or friend
- A remand prisoner is entitled to make at least 5 telephone calls per week to a family member or friend, and as many telephone calls as are reasonably necessary for the purpose of managing their property or business affairs
In strictly limited circumstances, where a governor has grounds to believe that a phone call may compromise the health and safety of a prisoner or member of the community, they may order that a call be monitored, recorded or prematurely terminated.
A prisoner is entitled to send letters to their family and friends, and to receive as many letters as are sent to them.
However, any prisoner who sends more than 7 letters in a single week may have to pay for postage and writing materials for any more letters they send.
Examination of letters
The governor can open, examine and confiscate:
- A letter being sent by a prisoner if its contents are suspected of undermining the safety and welfare of others (this does not apply to a letter to a professional recipient, such as a legal advisor or court official)
- A letter that has been sent to a prisoner if there are grounds to believe that its contents may compromise secure custody in prison, or would facilitate or hamper an investigation into a criminal offence
The following rules apply if you are a foreign national:
- A foreign national is entitled to receive a visit from their consul
- A stateless person is entitled to receive a visit from the consul of a state of their choosing
- An asylum applicant is entitled to receive a visit from a consul of a state of their choosing, as well as any national or international organisations deemed appropriate by the Minister for Justice
Unless the governor otherwise directs, all such visits to foreign nationals will take place in the hearing and view of a prison officer.