The Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign organisation, today welcomed the publication of a number of key documents by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, as a clear roadmap for immediate action. In particular, The Irish Prison Population - an examination of duties and obligations owed to prisoners clearly sets out the absolute minimum standards which must be met, placing the onus on the Irish Prison Service and on the Minister for Justice to meet these minimum standards and to reduce overcrowding across the Irish prison estate.
Speaking today, Executive Director, Liam Herrick said:
“The publication of these reports is hugely significant. The Inspector of Prisons has taken both international and Irish law and methodologically set out minimum standards for each of the fourteen prisons; while he acknowledges resource restraints, he clearly places the onus on the Irish Prison Service to come up with a plan as to how they will meet these minimum standards.
"The Inspector is also very clear that overcrowding is the key issue behind increases in violence, which he describes as "endemic" in Mountjoy Prison.
"Critically, the Inspector proposes a two-pronged strategy, placing the responsibility for addressing prisoner numbers with the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, and placing responsibility for the refurbishment of prison conditions with the Irish Prison Service."
Watch Liam Herrick on RTÉ Six One News here. [Click on 'video' and then 'Calls for end to slopping out in prisons.']
Aspects that receive particular attention include:
- slopping out in multi-occupancy cells
- overcrowding, with particular emphasis on the Dóchas Centre and Limerick female prison
- the need for refurbishment across the prison estate
- that a prison's capacity must be based on adequate access to regimes and activities, not just the number of bed spaces
The Annual Reports 2009 of each of the Prisons Visiting Committees were also published today. Among the concerns raised in the reports are:
- Dóchas Centre: concerns raised about the availability of care within the prison for women with mental health issues, along with accommodation in areas not built for that purpose
- St Patrick’s Institution: concerns raised that prisoners on protection are “cell by cell” with prisoners who are in that wing as punishment, citing escalating gang issues as creating a situation that “is becoming unmanageable.”
- Mountjoy Prison: improvements to security acknowledged, but the regime remains largely the same. “Still chronically overcrowded, vermin-infested [...] filthy facilities, and no structured approach to the prisoner’s day.”
- Cork Prison: the provision of mental health services cited as inadequate, and the reduction of psychology and counselling services a serious matter which should be urgently reviewed.
- Limerick Prison: concerns raised by prisoners on access to medical services, and emphasises the need for in-cell sanitation to be extended to the A and B wings.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust will examine the Visiting Committee reports, along with the documents presented by the Inspector of Prisons, and issue a detailed analysis in the coming days.
For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick, please contact:
Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust
T: + 353 1 874 1400 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. Prison Numbers: On 29 July, 2010, there were 4,473 prisoners in custody; this does not include the numbers out on Temporary Release. Source: Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2009
2. Inspector of Prisons Reports, published by the Minister for Justice on Fri 23rd October 2010, are available here.
3. Visiting Committee Reports 2009, also published by the Minister for Justice on Fri 23rd October 2010, here.
4. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie
IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.