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IPRT calls on Government to commit to specified timeframes on addressing sub-standard prison conditions and lack of independent complaints mechanism

10th October 2011

MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading independent penal reform organization, has today called on Government to commit to specified timeframes in its commitment to bring prison conditions in line with international standards, and to put in place an effective independent complaints mechanism for adult prisoners and children held in St Patrick’s Institution, which is required before Ireland can ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT).  IPRT was responding to the Outcomes Report of Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Universal Periodic review, published today (Monday, 10th October 2011.)

Speaking today, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:

“While we very much welcome the unequivocal acceptance by Government of all the recommendations on prison conditions, this is not the first time that an Irish government has committed on the international stage to addressing these issues. What we need now are specific plans, which are adequately resourced and linked to concrete timelines.

“IPRT strongly believes that for as long as prisoners have to slop out in overcrowded conditions, the State is leaving itself open to legal action by prisoners. Currently, around 1,000 men are slopping out every day, often in cells which are shared with others. While recent moves to install in-cell sanitation in Mountjoy’s C-wing are positive, there has been no action at all to address the chronic situation in Cork Prison, where around 300 men in shared cells have to slop out. The urgency to address the situation in Cork Prison was firmly stated by the Thornton Hall Review Committee in its recent report.

“IPRT is disappointed at the government’s failure to address directly the recommendation to extend the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to accept individual complaints from the children held in St Patrick’s Institution. Around 40 children are held in St Patrick’s at any given time and, along with asylum seeking children, these are the only children in the State excluded from the Ombudsman’s remit. All it would take to end this appalling discrimination is a decision by Government – it would require no resource investment at all.

“We also need the new Government to act on its commitment in the Programme for Government to build the long-promised National children Detention Centre at Oberstown in Lusk, and to bring an end to the imprisonment of children in St Patrick’s Institution.”

The Government also accepted the recommendations of the Member States on the need to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT).  This commitment was previously made in the Programme for Government, and will require Ireland to put in place a National Preventative Mechanism of anti-torture safeguards. 

“From an IPRT perspective, the glaring gap in Irish law that would allow us to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT), is the continuing lack of an independent complaints system for prisoners. While we welcome the commitment to move ahead on this issue, we have not yet seen any proposals from Government on prisoner complaints that would meet the standards of independence required by international law.”

Measures to address overcrowding, slopping out, violence, and the lack of effective complaints and monitoring mechanisms were recommended by 17 of 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 on Thurs 6th October 2011.

14 Member States 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).

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with Liam Herrick, contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust: +353 87 181 2990 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +353 87 181 2990      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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 Irish Government Delegation was led by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. The Outcomes Report, including the government’s response to each of the recommendations, was published 10th October 2011. All submission and reports are available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/IESession12.aspx

The IPRT Submission to the Universal Periodic Review is available here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2027

2. Prison Information:

  • Numbers: There were 4,257 people in prison custody in Ireland on 5th Oct 2011; the number of prisoners in custody was 4,587 on 12th April, 2011.
  • Violence in Irish prisons: 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). (Sources: Irish Prison Service Annual Reports for each year.)
  • Slopping out: On 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 Portlaoise Prison; 99 in Limerick Prison (male). In addition, a further 1,866 were required to use normal toilet facilities in the presence of others. (Source: Dáil Question, 27th Jan 2011: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2011-01-27.524.0)
  • 23-hour lock up: On 26th January 2011, there were 250 prisoners on 23-hour or more lock-up (for reasons of protection); 26 on 22-23 hour lock-up; 164 on 20-22 hr lock-up (including 57 in St Patrick’s Institution) and 60 on 18-20 hr lock-up.

(Source: Dáil Question, 27th January 2011: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2011-01-27.528.0

 3. IPRT Briefings

IPRT publishes a series of short (2 x A4) briefing documents across a number of key issues:

The full portfolio of IPRT Briefings is available at www.iprt.ie/iprt-briefings

4. ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ Coalition

IPRT is part of the ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ Coalition. For full details see: www.rightsnow.ie

5. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)

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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