An article in thejournal.ie discusses how a recent amendment to prison rules looks at the “meaningful human contact” prisoners get when out of their cells. Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD, introduced an amendment to Rule 27 (1) of the Prison Rules 2007 to 2017 on 29th June 2017. This amendment means that all prisoners are entitled to two hours out-of-cell time, and shall have “an opportunity during that time for meaningful human contact, including, at the discretion of the Governor, contact with other prisoners”.
Acting Executive Director of IPRT, Fíona Ní Chinnéide is quoted in the article as welcoming the fact that “meaningful human contact” has been named in legislation, but said that more needs to be done to define what this means.
She added that:
“There should be the opportunity to engage in education with other prisoners. Generally, on the prison estate, schools are the calmest centres. There’s a definite link with providing meaningful activities, education, work or training and a better environment and a decrease in violence”.
Fíona Ní Chinnéide also speaks of solitary confinement and how “it has a negative, damaging effect on both physical and mental health, whether it’s for punishment or protection or for mental health reasons" adding that she’s “particularly concerned” about people with mental health issues being in solitary confinement.
Fíona Ní Chinneide welcomes the fact the Irish Prison Service (IPS) is developing a policy on the issue of solitary confinement.