IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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IPRT welcomes landmark report on prison accountability

6th April 2011

MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) last night welcomed the publication by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence of the latest Inspector of Prisons report on Mountjoy. The report discloses serious problems with how complaints were investigated in the prison and vindicates IPRT’s longstanding call for a radical overhaul of complaints procedures within the prison system.

Some of the most disturbing findings of this report and of the Irish Prison Service report which it refers to were that a significant number of incidents where prisoners suffered serious injuries did not lead to effective investigations within the prison or by the Garda, and that the failure to address this problem was leading to “the beginning of a culture of impunity, advantage of which is being taken by a group of staff” (paragraph 3.18 of the Inspector’s report, quoting from the Irish Prison Service investigation).

Speaking last night on the publication of the report, IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick said:

“While the report paints a shocking picture of a culture of impunity within the prison system, the bringing of these issues into the public domain is a strong vindication the system of prison inspection.

This report describes how the Inspector brought his concerns about prisoner mistreatment to the Department and to prison management; and how it was the investigation instigated by the Irish Prison Service which uncovered the extent of the problems within Mountjoy. The statement of the Minister that he will now put the complaints system on a statutory footing meets a key gap in Irish law which IPRT has been campaigning on for many years.”

IPRT hopes that this report marks a watershed in addressing the problems within our prisons. The fact that it was the prison service itself that has identified the serious issues at Mountjoy marks an important progression from how problems within the prison system have been dealt with in the past.

While the Inspector’s report contains many positive examples of where prison management have acted on the Inspector’s recommendations to improve the general running of the prison, worryingly it shows no progress of the key problem of prison overcrowding, with Mountjoy continuing to operate at dangerously unsustainable levels of occupancy. The Inspector found that in March of this year, the prison held just under 700 prisoners, while he assessed the safe custody level as 517.

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with Liam Herrick, IPRT Executive Director, please contact:

Liam Herrick, Executive Director,
Irish Penal Reform Trust

T: + 353 1 874 1400;  E: info@iprt.ie;  W: www.iprt.ie

Notes for Editors:

The publication of this report is one of a number of significant steps taken by Minister Shatter since his appointment.

Last week, Minister Shatter announced the establishment of a review group to consider the Thornton Hall project which we now know will comprise former Supreme Court judge and former president of the Law Reform Commission, Catherine McGuinness; UCD law lecturer Tom Cooney, who is also the Minister’s adviser; accountant Brendan Murtagh, a partner in LHM Casey McGrath; and Brian Purcell, director general of the Irish Prison Service. IPRT strongly supports this decision and looks forward to contributing positively to the work of the review group.

This week the Minister also announced the prioritisation by the new Government of Spent Convictions legislation, another longstanding priority for IPRT.

The Inspector of Prisons report on Mountjoy is available at the Department of Justice website here.

Earlier reports from the Inspector, including previous report on Mountjoy are available at the Inspector of Prisons website here.

IPRT’s Position Paper on Complaints Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons is available here.

For further information about the Spent Convictions Bill click here.