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Response to Inspector of Prisons and Visiting Committee reports for 2009

26th October 2010

The media reports on the publication of a number of critical documents by the Dept of Justice and Law Reform on Fri 22nd Oct, 2010:

22102010 Six One News Liam HerrickRTÉ Six One News reports on the "highly critical report on conditions in many of the Ireland's 14 prisons", including an interview with IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick. Read a summary of the news item here; watch the news item here. (To watch Liam's interview, click on 'Calls for end to 'slopping out' in prisons'.)

The Irish Examiner examines the Inspector of Prisons' clear warning that the State faces legal action from prisoners unless obligations are met, with particular reference to the ongoing practice of slopping out in three prisons (Mountjoy, Cork and Limerick) and overcrowding. The Inspector repeats his 2009 statement that no more than 540 prisoners should ever be acommodated in Mountjoy (where 700 are regularly held); 194 is the maximum number that should be held at Cork prison, which regularly holds 300 prisoners; Castlerea and Wheatfield both regularly accommodate 100 more than capacity. Judge Reilly's proposal for a "two-pronged approach to tackling overcrowding – a "stabilisation" of the population and a building and refurbishment programme to meet the state’s obligations" is also reported. See: 'State ‘faces action over inhumane’ prisons'' (23 Oct 2010)

Also in the Irish Examiner, Noel Baker reports on the Visiting Committee reports, with particular focus on Mountjoy Prison, quoting directly from the report: "Still chronically overcrowded, vermin-infested, more drugs in the prison than sweets in the tuck shop, filthy facilities and no structured approach to a prisoner’s day." Of interest is the Committee's recommendation not only to halt the in-flow of drugs but also calling for "A dedicated structured approach to reducing and eventually stopping dependency on drugs should be implemented as a priority issue." See: ''More drugs than sweets’ in prison tuck shop' (23 Oct 2010)

In the Irish Independent, Tom Brady looks at the issue of escalating violence in Irish prisons, quoting the Inspector of Prisons on the "endemic" nature of violence in Mountjoy Prison. The article quotes many key recommendations by Judge Reilly including: that the authorities should consider setting up "problem solving" courts under the umbrella of the community court; the automatic suspension of all sentences carrying a specific number of months or less; that the authorities should draw up a priority list for prisons in need of measures to alleviate overcrowding. It also quotes the Inspector that lack of funding should not be taken as an excuse, and appropriate money must be made available. See: 'Jail report urges design overhaul to limit violence' (23 Oct 2010)

The Irish Independent also focusses on Visiting Committee concerns about the ongoing imprisonment of fine defaulters, and warnings from the Inspector of Prisons on prison overcrowding: "He said he accepted the Government had limited resources and must prioritise but insisted neither of these should be accepted as an excuse for depriving prisoners of basic human rights other than those removed by law." See: 'Jail time for unpaid fines slammed' (22 Oct 2010)

The Irish Times reports on the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee report for 2009, in which the Committee disparaged the ongoing imprisonment of fine defaulters, stating that the Irish Prisons Service "continues to accept inmates from courts, without question, into unsafe, unhygienic and overcrowded conditions." The article also details the Committee's warnings that "in the ground floor base wings a fifth of prisoners were recorded at one time sleeping on the floor among vermin and cockroaches." See: 'Mountjoy conditions condemned' (22 Oct 2010)

The newspaper also provides a brief overview of some of the Visiting Committee reports in 'The State of the Jails' (23 Oct 2010)

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