The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly has raised a number of concerns in his recently published Deaths in Crison reports. The reports, which examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of individual prisoners, are at times seriously critical of the Irish Prison Service in relation to the level of care received by deceased prisoners. In some cases, the Inspector has commented that the “the Irish Prison Service failed in its duty of care to the deceased” (Prisoner M – 2014, p. 20; Prisoner F – 2014, p. 31).
The Inspector has highlighted the need for a proper line management structure in prisons so as to ensure compliance with Standard Operating Procedures, Governor’s and Chiefs’ Orders (Prisoner H – 2014, p. 19/20; Prisoner M – 2014, p. 24). He has also raised concerns in relation to the reliability of record keeping at certain prisons noting that “[p]ublic officials must realise that it is a serious matter to create inaccurate public records” (Prisoner H – 2014, p. 19/20; Prisoner M – 2014, p. 24). The reports also emphasise the importance of psychology services for prisoners which are relevant to their needs (Prisoner H – 2014). Such services should, according to the Inspector include, appropriate counselling, to any prisoners who are or may be affected by a traumatic event (Prisoner E – 2015, p. 11; Prisoner J – 2014, p. 17). Interestingly, he has commented that the provision of healthcare to prisoners “should be the sole responsibility of the medical professionals and must not be dependent on operational considerations” (Prisoner F – 2014, p. 33).
Notably the Inspector has called for “appropriate and robust procedures” to be introduced “as a matter of great urgency in all prisons to ensure that prisoner call bells are responded to as soon as is humanly possible” (Prisoner J – 2014, p. 17). The introduction of such measures would undoubtedly aid in preventing altercations between prisoners from escalating unnecessarily. In addition, the Inspector has identified particular difficulties with the practice of turning off all landing lights during periods of lock-down (Prisoner N – 2014, p. 21). For obvious reasons there should be sufficient light to enable the identification, by means of CCTV, of personnel and relevant activity in any part of a prison at any time.
To read the full reports, see: