IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Mental health facilities in Mountjoy prison

8th December 2010

The current facilities available for accommodating prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide in Mountjoy Prison would appear to be grossly inadequate, according to a published report by the Inspectors at the Mental Health Commission. 

There are serious concerns that observation cells are the only resources available to treat such prisoners. These convicted offenders are being forced to be detained in these observation cells for long periods of time, up to several weeks, as there is no high support unit presently available at the prison, according to a new report published by the mental health regulator.

These safety observation cells are designed to accommodate prisoners who require frequent observation for medical reasons or because they are a danger to themselves, not to be used to alleviate mental illness. The report stresses the need to use these cells only as a last resort, and the commissioning of a high-support unit should as soon as possible. The present provides nursing staff with the authority to place prisoners in these cells goes against the standard practice at approved mental facilities.

In regards the general mental health facilities accessible the Inspectors criticised Mountjoy for not having a multidisciplinary clinical team, access to clinical psychologists, occupational therapists or social workers, noting that under the law prisoners have the same right to mental health services as the general public and in fact actually have a higher need than most. 

This is yet another example of the failure of Mountjoy to meet the fundamental rights of prisoners. Prisoners are far more likely than the general public to suffer from mental health problems,  therefore it is imperative that adequate facilities are provided to deal with these, in order to protect and defend their rights and ensure the greatest possibility for rehabilitation and reintegration into society. 

Providing more beds and increasing prison capacity will serve no purpose, in regards deterring crime and reducing re-offending, if basic services such as these are absent. 

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