The Irish Penal Reform Trust has called for prison visits to return to pre-pandemic conditions.

In-person visits were stopped earlier this month amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in Ireland.

IPRT Deputy Director Molly Joyce said prison visits, which are expected to resume this week, will still be one in-person visit every two weeks, with a video visit on the alternate week.

She said this is a return to the situation before the most recent restrictions were imposed.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said restrictions will also remain in place in some areas of prisons, where there are active outbreaks.

There are currently outbreaks in the Midlands prison, Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick and Cloverhill.

Ms Joyce said that before the pandemic, convicted prisoners were allowed one 30 minute visit per week, while those on remand could have three 15 minute visits every week.

Currently, there are only two visitors allowed per visit, including one child.

Ms Joyce said the rule regarding children in particular is causing real hardship as families have to choose which child to bring.

The Irish Prison Service has said that a total of 655 prisoners tested positive for Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

It said that since last November, 14 outbreaks have occurred within prisons and the IPS is currently managing four active outbreaks where a number of staff and prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19.

Ms Joyce said the IPRT recognises the work of prison staff throughout the pandemic in keeping people in prisons safe and said there has been one death due to Covid-19 in the prison population.

She prisons are dynamic environments and it is not clear that infections are only coming from family visits.

She called for a more flexible approach to managing Covid-19 within prisons and to move away from wholesale restrictions.

Ms Joyce said the Government message is that Ireland needs to start living with Covid-19 and it is important to ensure that prisons are not left behind.