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Women in Prison Reform Alliance expresses grave concern at Dóchas Centre Visiting Committee Report

18th November 2011


MEDIA ADVISORY

The Women In Prison Reform Alliance, comprising leading penal reform and women’s rights groups, has expressed grave concern at reports of serious violations of prisoner rights contained in the Dóchas Centre Prison Visiting Committee annual report for 2010 published today (18th November 2011.)

The report includes reference to two serious incidents at the prison:  (i) the report recounts an incident where a woman was forcibly ejected from the prison in circumstances which seriously violated her human rights; (ii) the Committee also expressed great concern about an incident of forced strip searching of women which it alleges took place in the presence of male officers and where women were given inadequate material to cover themselves.  The report also alleges that the security system in the prison resulted in some women being denied basic commodities such as clean underwear and toiletries.

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

“The incidents recounted in the Dóchas Centre visiting committee report represent grave violations of prisoners’ rights, including the humiliation and degrading treatment of women prisoners.  These reports demand a full investigation.  While the Minister for Justice has disputed some of the allegations in the report, he has also acknowledged that serious violation of prison procedures have taken place.

"IPRT and our colleagues in the Women in Prison Reform Alliance now call for the immediate publication of any internal investigations into these incidents.  Regardless of different accounts of what precisely happened during these incidents, these serious allegations demand an independent investigation and reinforce the need for an independent complaints mechanism within the prison system.”

Of equal concern in today’s report is a more general finding by the Committee that the ethos of the prison had deteriorated significantly in recent years, and staffing levels were found to be seriously  inadequate in the prison.  Liam Herrick stated:

“The Dóchas Centre was, for many years, rightly held up as a great success story for the Irish prison system and was put forward as a model for women’s prisons internationally.  The conclusion of the Visiting Committee, that the progressive and rehabilitative regime in the prison is now being lost in a shift to more a punitive culture in the prison, is deeply regrettable.

"We also believe that the findings of this report call into question current plans to significantly expand the prison with the introduction of dormitory accommodation for an extra 70 prisoners.  The problems in the prison must be addressed as a priority, before any plans for expansion can be considered.”

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Liam Herrick, Executive Director, Irish Penal Reform Trust

T: + 353 1 874 1400; E: communications@iprt.ie; M: +353 87 181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

  1. The publication of the Dochas Centre Visiting Committee Report was one of 14 Visiting Committee reports published today. All reports are available at http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Prison_visiting_committee_annual_reports_2010
  2. The Women in Prison Reform Alliance (WPRA) is made up of a number of organisations and individuals concerned with women’s rights and the rights of prisoners; members of the alliance include IPRT, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Mercy Justice Office, Dominican Justice Office and Dr Christina Quinlan.
  3. In December 2009, the WPRA submitted a proposal to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform for a Government commissioned, independent review of policy and practice in relation to women who come into the criminal justice system. This review should focus particularly on examining the current use of imprisonment for women, and exploring the scope for extending the range and utilisation of non-custodial alternatives.
  4. The 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. For more information, please visit: www.iprt.ie