As part of a historic legal challenge, prisoners in the North of Ireland prison system are now allowed for the first time ever, access to free sexual health products.
In a recent landmark ruling was initially brought by a prisoner, directly challenged the continuing failure by the Northern Ireland Prison Service to grant "effective access to preventative measures to prevent sexually transmitted infections”.
Such a historic victory was quite rightly viewed by many, as an important development for prisoners sexual health and in welcoming the decision.
A member of the legal team who took the challenge stated afterwards; “the decision of the prison service to now implement a policy where prisoners can now access sexual protection items to have safe sex in prison. This is a monumental change in prison rules which places prisoners’ health at the forefront of prison policy”.
The prisoner involved was given anonymity prior to the legal challenge, had demanded action earlier in the year as a refusal by prison system to allow sexual health items into prison was ‘in breach of the human rights act and the European Convention on Human Rights’.
Since the land-mark victory, items now listed as free to prisoners include; condoms, dental dams and water-based lubricants.
Over the past year, Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) have assisted a number prisoners to begin to organise on the inside throughout Ireland. To assist prisoners to network more effectively in a collective manner as part of the Industrial Workers of the World union.
The momentum for prisoners to organise on the inside, to defend their rights, was strengthened after the first ever ‘national prison strike’ in North America several years ago now.
An act that was seen as a wake-up call for prisoners at the value of their own strength when organised. For many on the inside, that scene of unionised solidarity has been a source of self-empowerment and inspiration for many prisoners held in jails across the world.
A spokesperson for IWOC said that, “We welcome the news that prisoners sexual health issues are finally being acknowledged within the prison system across the North. This is indeed a historic victory and a huge departure from what has gone before in terms of health care within the prison system. It is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved.
“Speaking to prisoners and receiving direct accounts over the last number of weeks, it’s a welcome change in health care however, there are still a number of obstacles to overcome in relation to it. Without doubt it is a successful victory and one that we hope many will greatly benefit from.”
If you, a relative or a friend on the inside wish to find out more of join IWOC then please get in touch here