Irish Red Cross inmate volunteers are trained in Infection Control as part of the Community Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) Programme every year.
More specifically, every year inmate volunteers learn proper hand-washing techniques, correct sneezing and coughing etiquette, and in all prisons a colour coded mop and bucket system has been introduced. This has all contributed to cleaner prisons and prevention of infection. The volunteers then disseminate this information to their peers within their prison community through awareness campaigns and landing demonstrations
Before the coronavirus landed in Ireland, volunteers learned about the symptoms of the virus and
the dangers that it carried. Volunteers were able to use this knowledge to peer educate the rest of
their prison community before the virus began to spread in Ireland. Furthermore, this allowed for
each prison population to be prepared and apply effective infection control measures in their daily
routines. As the virus became more serious and the country went into lockdown, supports that the
volunteers would usually have (such as teachers, psychologists, chaplains and addiction counsellors) were no longer able to enter the prisons. Therefore, the Irish Red Cross inmate volunteers took a very strong leadership role to assist the Irish Prison Service staff with the challenges of COVID-19.Volunteers continued to educate their peers ineffective infection control measures, spoke to inmates facing mental health challenges, assisted with the distribution of information and education packs, and did their best to keep up positive morale throughout each of the prisons.
The Irish Red Cross also introduced two separate newsletters to be distributed to prisoners each
week; (1) COVID-19 Prisoner Information Newsletter; and (2) Living in Cell Newsletter. All prisoners
received the information newsletter each week, and those cocooning, isolating and in quarantine
received the Living in Cell newsletter in addition to the weekly COVID-19 newsletter. This provided
prisoners with updated information in regards to COVID-19, education, and services they could
access, in addition to exercises and activities they could do during this time. Irish Red Cross inmate volunteers assisted with translating the newsletters in several languages and distributed these newsletters every week to the rest of their prison communities.
The activities of the Irish Red Cross inmate volunteers helped to contribute to zero positive cases
amongst prisoners across the country for more than six months.
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