On the 7th May 2013, The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, published the 2012 annual reports of the Visiting Committees for Castlerea, Cloverhill and the Dóchas Centre.
The reports may be accessed here:
- The Visiting Committee noted in particular the numbers of overcrowding and the prison was understaffed. An undisclosed number of ‘non-serious’ suicide attempts were also reported. No description was given as to what constitutes a ‘non-serious’ suicide attempt or what circumstances led to the prisoner attempting such a serious act.
- Overcrowding is clearly affecting the provision of educational and medical services and the ability of staff to work effectively in a safe and secure environment. The V.C. describes the prison as being very well run despite describing overcrowding as placing extra pressure on staff, an undisclosed number of attempted suicides and educational classes being over-subscribed. This potentially raises both staffing and welfare concerns.
- Outbreaks of T.B in the prison appear to have been a serious problem during 2012 but report that they feel the prison is showing ‘continuous improvement’ in this regard. The Committee met with a small amount of prisoners during the year. The results of discussions with the Governor on the issues of ‘return to general population’ and ‘harassment’ were not reported.
- The V.C. state they are pleased with the educational facilities and provision of education in Cloverhill yet describe staff shortages as having undermined access to gym and library facilities.
- The Dóchas Centre V.C. has compiled a seven page report that describes much of what should be common practice for all Visiting Committee’s. These practices include describing methods of investigation, how visits were conducted, plans for the coming year, proactive efforts to make positive changes to the prison and ensure prisoners and staff are made aware of the Committee's role.
- Staffing levels at the Dóchas Centre were again noted in this report. Concerns were raised as to the negative effect on wellbeing caused by a lack of chaplains and access to the gym and or other forms of physical exercise. The report noted the importance of educational and recreational facilities for a prison population that largely lack literacy and numeracy skills. Lack of adequate staffing levels and overcrowding are affecting much-needed educational and recreational facilities.
- Despite the opening of 20 new prison places, accommodation and general maintenance standards have deteriorated with leaks in the roof making some areas unfit for use.
- Two infants are currently living with their mothers at the Dóchas Centre. The Committee commended the prison staff in accommodating the women and their families.
- The lack of toilet facilities in the Visiting area for families and children who have travelled long distances to see prisoners was a large issue for the Committee. This was resolved by the opening of a staff toilet for visitor’s’ use.
- The Committee express concern about the ability of staff to cater for women with mental health issues in the prison. The Committee noted as unacceptable the fact that prisoners complained of an absence of adequate pain relief and access to hospital to diagnose and manage pain. The need for adequate dental healthcare is also noted as priority issue for the prison.