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IPRT welcomes announcement of Review of Irish Prison Service

16th February 2015

MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the announcement today (Monday, 16th February 2015) by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, of a wide-ranging review of the current culture and operations of the Irish Prison Service. IPRT also strongly welcomes the statement of support for the Review by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, in which the Minister restated her commitment to reform in the area of prisons and penal policy.

However, IPRT underlines that the review does not diminish the acute need for stronger accountability mechanisms in the Irish prison system. To this end, IPRT is restating its calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality to act on commitments in the Programme for Government, and progress the ‘Inspection of Places of Detention Bill’ with urgency.

Responding to the announcement today, IPRT Deputy Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said:

“IPRT welcomes the proposed review of the culture and operation of the prison service as one of a number of actions towards the improvement of accountability in the Irish prison system. It is essential that all stakeholders have confidence in the process, and that a mechanism to ensure findings and recommendations are acted upon is built into the review.

"Professor Andrew Coyle has significant experience and expertise in the area of prisons and reform. IPRT is fully confident that the approach taken by the Inspector of Prisons, working closely with Professor Coyle, will be independent, rigorous and fair.

“The Review does not diminish the urgent need for an overhaul of accountability mechanisms in the Irish prison system, including progress on the ‘Inspection of Places of Detention Bill’. The highest standards of oversight should apply to any institution, be it a hospital or school or prison, and must be rigorously observed. As history has shown, the need for robust systems of accountability are even more critical behind closed doors.”

IPRT was responding to the announcement today (Monday 16th February 2015) by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, of a Review of the Irish Prison Service, which will be conducted with renowned international prisons expert Professor Andrew Coyle, with an expected completion date of 1st Sept 2015.

The Inspector of Prisons has previously identified limitations in his powers of investigation into deaths which occur in prison, and in relation to serious complaints. On today's announcement, IPRT has restated its calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality to progress the ‘Inspection of Places of Detention Bill’ with urgency, in order to address current limitations in prison monitoring and accountability.

For further comment, contact Fíona Ní Chinnéide, IPRT Deputy Executive Director, on: 087 181 2990

NOTES:

1. ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE INSPECTOR OF PRISONS OF A REVIEW OF THE IRISH PRISONS SERVICE

The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly announced today (Monday 16th Feb 2015) that, in accordance with Section 31(2) of the Prisons Act 2007, he has embarked on a review of the Irish Prison Service: “To carry out an assessment of the current culture within the Irish Prison Service and the extent to which it facilitates or hinders the development of the service and to produce a report with recommendations by 1 September 2015.”

The full statement is available here: http://inspectorofprisons.gov.ie/en/IOP/IOP-Review2015.pdf/Files/IOP-Review2015.pdf

The press release issued by the Minister for Justice and Equality is available here: http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR15000040

2. Inspection of Places of Detention Bill

The drafting of a General Scheme of ‘Inspection of Places of Detention Bill’ was approved on 17 May 2011, but remains on the ‘C’ list of legislation for spring/summer 2015. See: http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Taoiseach_and_Government/Government_Legislation_Programme/

3. Commitments in the Programme for Government 2011-2016

The Programme of Government (March 2011) committed to strengthening the powers of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons.

“We will strengthen the Inspector of Prisons, by putting the office on a statutory footing and removing restrictions on publication by the Inspector of Prisons of his/her reports. Prison visiting committees will furnish their reports to the Inspector of Prisons who will be under an obligation to publish them. The Inspector of Prisons will make an annual report to the Minister for Justice and the Oireachtas Justice Committee, and will be empowered to appear before that Committee on such other occasions as may be appropriate.”

See: http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2014/Statement-of-Government-Priorities-2014-2016.pdf

4. Ratification of OPCAT

Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in October 2007, but has yet to ratify it. The ratification of OPCAT requires the introduction of a National Preventative Mechanism to monitor places of detention.

5. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie

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.