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UN Member States highlight prison issues during Ireland's examination under UPR

6th October 2011

Overcrowding, slopping out, the lack of effective complaints and monitoring mechanisms, and the use of prisons for immigration detention purposes were among the serious human rights issues in Ireland identified by the 48 Member States present at Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Universal Periodic Review, which took place in the Palais des Nations in Geneva this morning (Thurs 6th October 2011.) Of the 48 Member States present, 17 recommended that the government address prison conditions, with particular reference to overcrowding and lack of in-cell sanitation, and 14 recommended that the government ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP CAT).

Responding to the issues raised, the Minister thanked contributing Member States for highlighting prison conditions as this will support his argument at Cabinet level for the necessary resources to upgrade prison facilities.

However, Minister Shatter rejected that violence in Irish prisons was a significant issue, and claimed it was in line with the experience of other countries. In fact, the statistics contained in the Irish Prison Service Annual Reports tell a different story: there were 1,014 incidents of violence in 2010 (2.5 per day for a population of 4,300) which was a 25% increase on 814 (2 per day for a population of 3,800) in 2009, which itself was an increase from 759 incidences in 2008 (2 per day for a population of 3,500). The figures clearly demonstrate the link between increasing levels of overcrowding and a rise in inter-prisoner violence over recent years.

Speaking this morning at Liberty Hall, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, said:

"This morning's examination of Ireland’s human rights record provides emphatic proof of how seriously the rest of the world, but especially western states, view the conditions in our prisons. This sends out an unavoidable message to the Government that conditions in our prisons are stand out human rights issues and demand immediate action, especially on the issues of overcrowding and slopping out. ”

Of the 17 countries to address prison conditions, the United States focused exclusively on prison issues; Costa Rica described the issue of imprisonment of people for failure to pay fines as disproportionate punishment of people with limited financial resources; the Netherlands recommended that the remit of the Ombudsman for Children be extended to include individual complaints from children held in St Patrick’s Institution; and Thailand made a particular recommendation that Ireland comply with the standards laid out in UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non- Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).

Minister Shatter stated that the Government has approved the preparation of legislation to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; that work is continuing on the preparation of a legislative scheme, with a view to ratification as soon as possible after enactment.

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with Liam Herrick , contact: Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust

T: +353 1 874 1400 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +353 1 874 1400      end_of_the_skype_highlighting    M: +353 87 181 299  E: communications@iprt.ie

Notes For Editors:

1. Ireland's first examination under the UN Universal Periodic Review

Ireland’s hearing under the UN Universal Periodic Review took place in the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Thurs 6th October 2011. The Universal Periodic Review is a process through which the human rights records of the United Nations' 192 Member States are reviewed and assessed every four years. The Irish Government Delegation was led by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Submissions, reports and advance questions can be accessed here.

The IPRT Submission to the Universal Periodic Review is available here.

2. Prison figures

  • There were 4,269 people in prison custody in Ireland ion the 15th September 2010: the number of prisoners in custody reached 4,587 on the 12th of April, 2011.
  • On the 17th Dec 2010, 1,003 men were required to slop out in Irish prisons: 515 in Mountjoy Prison; 299 prisoners in Cork Prison, all in shared cells (sharing with 1-2 others); 51 in Portloaise Prison; 99 in Limerick Prison (male). (Source: Dail Question, 27th Jan 2011: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2011-01-27.528.0).
  • On the 26th January 2011, there were 250 prisoners on 23-hour lock-up (for reasons of protection); 26 on 22-23 hour lock-up; 164 on 20-22 hour lock-up (including 57 in St Patrick's Institution) and 60 on 18-20 hour lock-up. (Source: Dail Question, 27th Jan 2011: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2011-01-27.528.0).

3. IRPT Briefings

IPRT publishes a series of short (2 x A4) briefing documents across a number of key issues, available at www.iprt.ie/iprt-briefings.

4. 'Your Rights. Right Now' Coalition

IPRT is part of the ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ Coalition of civil society organisations, made up of: Children’s Rights Alliance; Disability Federation of Ireland; Dóchas; Educate Together; Free Legal Advice Centres; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Irish Family Planning Association  ; Irish Penal Reform Trust; Irish Senior Citizens Parliament; Irish Traveller Movement; National Women's Council of Ireland; Simon Communities of Ireland; The Integration Centre; Transgender Equality Network; Union of Students in Ireland. More information about the ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ Campaign is available here.

5. Irish Penal Reform Trust

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:www.iprt.ie

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