The sixth report on places of detention in Ireland from the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment (CPT) was published today. A summary of critical issues detailed in the report is included below. The report itself is available here.
Among other issues, the Committee made the following observations (paragraph numbers are given in brackets):
Overcrowding/ Need for a female open prison:
- Notwithstanding the fact that the Dóchas Centre had an operational capacity of 105, it was holding 122 inmates at the time of the Committee’s visit (89). The female unit at Limerick Prison was not overcrowded at the time of the Committee’s visit. However, the Governor reported and the documentation confirmed that most of the time the unit was accommodating some 30 to 32 women for 24 places. In such cases, “six to eight women had to sleep on mattresses on the floor” (90). Such conditions for female prisoners are undoubtedly unsatisfactory.
- Notably, the Committee commented that the lack of an open or semi-open prison for women in Ireland “places women in a less favourable position as compared with male offenders” (87).
- In relation to the detention of male prisoners, at the time of the Committee’s visit, there were approximately 330 prisoners slopping-out in Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise Prisons (the vast majority of them in Cork). This position is wholly inadequate. The Committee has recommended that “until such time as all cells possess in-cell sanitation, the authorities should ensure that prisoners who need to use a toilet facility are released from their cells without undue delay at all times” (22).
Ill treatment of detainees (verbal/physical abuse):
- The Committee observed that “a small number of prison officers seem to be inclined to use more physical force than is necessary and to verbally abuse prisoners” (25).
- Furthermore, in the course of its visit, the Committee received a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment and verbal disrespect by Gardaí; the majority of the allegations concerned the time of arrest or during transport to a Garda station (12). Any form of ill-treatment (physical or verbal) of detained persons is unacceptable.
- The Committee found that in some cases immigration detainees were held with remand and convicted prisoners (18). This was the case, for example, at Cloverhill Prison. The Committee stated it is imperative that the Irish authorities pursue their plans to establish a specifically designed centre for immigration detainees (19).
- As regards the provision of health care, the findings of the 2014 visit illustrate that “while it has improved in some prisons it has further deteriorated in others” (48). The Committee commented that the health-care service in some prisons was in “a state of crisis”. The Committee has recommended that the Irish authorities identify an appropriate independent body to undertake a fundamental review of health-care services in Irish prisons (48). The Committee also expressed concern in relation to the provision of health-care services within police custody (15).
Mental-health care services:
- The Committee observed that Irish prisons “continued to detain persons with psychiatric disorders too severe to be properly cared for in a prison setting” (63). Furthermore, High Support Units in several prisons were not properly resourced and did not address the needs of mentally-ill prisoners (60, 61, 62).
- The establishment of a new complaints mechanism within the Irish prison system was welcomed by the Committee; however, prisoners’ trust in the new system should (according to the Committee) be enhanced, inter alia, by ensuring that all complaints are investigated within the established timelines. The Committee found that in some cases prisoners’ complaints were not dealt with in a reasonable amount of time. For example, at Mountjoy Prison, there were delays “in some cases of up to three and a half months between the lodging of the complaint and the start of the investigation by an external investigator” (83).
- The Committee has stated that any allegations (which may fall within Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) in relation to use by An Garda Síochána of excessive force at the time of apprehension, should be investigated by an independent body (10).
Deaths in Prison:
- In the course of the 2014 visit, the Committee examined in detail four recent cases of deaths in custody. (29) The Committee expressed concern that the Irish Prison Service “may have failed in its duty of care to these prisoners” (29). Significantly it was observed that there had been “no internal review by the prison management into the circumstances surrounding the deaths” of these prisoners (30).
- According to the Committee, inter-prisoner violence remains far too high and “continues to be fuelled by a number of factors; notably, the existence of feuding gangs and a high prevalence of illicit drug use” (26). The Committee has strongly suggested that Irish authorities pursue efforts to address the phenomenon of inter-prisoner violence, including through strengthening the implementation of the drug strategy programme.
- As regards disciplinary matters, the Committee found that the sanction of “loss of all privileges” still results in prisoners being held in conditions akin to solitary confinement for (in some cases up to 56 days), (71) which is unacceptable. Given the potentially very damaging effects of solitary confinement, the Committee has recommended that such confinement only be used in “exceptional cases and as a last resort, and for the shortest possible period of time” (71).
- In relation to the detention of juveniles the Committee commented that the application of the measure of separation on young persons, at times, appeared to be used as an “informal disciplinary measure instead of a measure of protection” (129). In one case a “boy was placed in separation on 27 occasions during the period May to July for a total of 99 hours and 45 minutes” (129). This continued practice is wholly unacceptable.
The report itself is available here.