In July, the First Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention was published. In addition, the Inspector also released individual reports on the conditions at Mountjoy/Dóchas, Cloverhill, Limerick and Portlaoise Prisons.
Prepared by Justice Dermot Kinlen, the Report reinforces much of the work and perspectives of the IPRT by highlighting problems about which we have been campaigning for years.
Concerns identified by Justice Kinlen include:
- "Far too many people are sent to prison."
- The high cost of running the prison service, and "how little of the budget reaches prisoners' needs." Justice Kinlen expressed particular concern at the high prison officer to prisoner ratio, noting that Ireland has a higher ratio than any other country in the world.
- The "very poor" condition of the buildings of Mountjoy, Portlaoise and Limerick Prisons. The Report recommends that these institutions be closed.
- Inadequate provision of mental health care, and the incarceration of people with mental health problems. According to the Report "The prison has become a dumping ground for many of the psychiatrically ill among us." Justice Kinlen recommends that provision of mental health services for prisoners become the responsibility of the Department of Health and Children.
- The impact of poverty on ex-prisoners, and its contribution to re-offending. The Report identifies homelessness among former prisoners as a "major problem". It also questions the practice of discharging people from prison with little or no money. The Inspector rightly asks "If a person is released on a Friday night primarily to convenience the Courts and the Prison Service with about at most €60.00 in his/her pocket and cannot get the dole for two weeks, will he/she not revert to crime?"
- Racism in Irish prisons. According to Justice Kinlen, "There is undoubtedly racism in the Irish Prison System but a lot of the management and staff are not fully aware it."
- Inadequacy of current programming for sex offenders.
- Lack of access to methadone in all prisons in the state. The Report recommends the expansion of these programmes into all prisons affected by drug use.
The IPRT welcomes Justice Kinlen's, and will draw upon its many findings to support our ongoing efforts to promote change within the Irish prison system. We look forward to subsequent reports, and hope that future documents will include comprehensive data on prison conditions across the state.
The Report can be accessed at www.justice.ie.