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IPRT welcomes more robust enforcement role for Inspector of Prisons

30th May 2011


The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) strongly welcomes the statement by the Inspector of Prisons that he is to take on a more robust enforcement role with regard to inadequacies in the prison system which is contained in his Annual Report 2010, published today (30 May 2011). However, IPRT has also expressed grave concern at the continuing practice of detaining mentally ill people in inappropriate prison settings, as detailed in a new standards document issued by the Inspector, Guidance on Physical Healthcare in a Prison Context, which was also published today.

Responding to the publication of the Annual Report, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, said:

“The key element of the report is that the Inspector indicates that he intends to take a more direct role in regulating how each prison performs against international and domestic standards.   He is now setting deadlines for meeting basic standards, which he has clearly set out in previous – such as a deadline of the end of this year for ending slopping out in Mountjoy.”

“The targets in this report are fair and seem to be based on contact with the Irish Prison Service over what is achievable. By clearly stating that if targets are not met, he will interpret such a failure as indicating a lack of commitment by local staff, the Inspector is placing the onus on senior prison management to perform.

“This process of bringing the system up to standard will also require the backing of Government for strengthening the Inspector’s office – a commitment already contained in the Programme for Government.”

Among the general problems the Inspector has identified across the system, the acute need for drug-free units in each prison, for designated committal areas and high support units for vulnerable prisoners are particularly striking.

The report also contains some very worrying findings about some prisons which have not been the focus of attention up to now, in particular Castlerea and Limerick, which were found to be dirty and in poor repair, with inadequate services and regimes. The only fresh water taps for drinking water available to prisoners on the A and B wings of Limerick Prison are immediately over the slop-hoppers, which is completely unacceptable.

Crucially, the Inspector also points once again to the continuing gap of an independent complaints mechanism to complement his role.

The publication of the Inspector’s latest standards document, Guidance on Physical Healthcare in a Prison Context, is also highly significant and completes a full set of standards published by the Inspector across each key area of prison life.

“IPRT is particularly struck by the shocking details provided by the Inspector of the treatment of a prisoner who could not access the Central Mental Hospital.  This issue has been a key campaigning priority for IPRT since our foundation in 1994 and is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge by IPRT to the treatment of mentally ill prisoners which dates back more than a decade. That the Inspector has found seriously mentally ill prisoners continuing to be accommodated in inappropriate settings despite IPRT having notified Government of this issue 15 years ago, is a national scandal of the gravest nature.”

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust

T: + 353 1 874 1400           E: communications@iprt.ie


1. Prison Numbers

  • On 13 May 2011, there were 4,490 prisoners in custody; this does not include 835 who were out on Temporary Release. There were 229 prisoners in custody serving sentences of <6 months and 389 serving sentences of 6 - 12 months. Source: Dáil Question, 18 May 2011
  • On 17 Dec 2010, out of a total of 4,397 prisoners in custody, 1,003 were required to slop out and a further 1,866 were required to use normal toilet facilities in the presence of others. Source: Dáil Question, 27 January 2011

2. Inspector of Prisons – Reports

The following reports by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, were published by the Minister for Justice on 30th May, 2011:

The Inspector of Prisons has previously taken international law and Irish law and clearly and methodologically set out minimum standards for each of the fourteen prisons, including supplementary standards for women prisoners and juvenile prisoners. All are available at: www.inspectorofprisons.gov.ie

3. 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.

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