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Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) Publish Report Ahead of 2nd Periodic UNCAT Review

18th July 2017

IPRT welcomes the publication of IHREC’s report in advance of the 2nd periodic review of UNCAT Ireland and the Convention against Torture. The IHREC report highlights the need for the State to ratify OPCAT which would provide a clear ‘roadmap’ and timeline for the implementation of OPCAT. Ireland signed the OPCAT in 2007 but has yet to ratify it. The ratification of OPCAT would mean strengthening the inspection and monitoring process in all places where persons are deprived of their liberty with the overall aim of protecting against ill-treatment.

Key Issues Raised by IHREC: ‘Treatment in Detention’

IHREC highlights the need for the State to align current Irish prison standards with the UN Mandela Rules and also highlights the crucial role human rights and equality training should play for new and existing prison staff. Some other key recommendations related to treatment in detention in IHREC’s report are outlined below which includes:

Transparency and Consistency in Organisational Practices

  • Need for transparency of statistics with regard to length of time prisoners spend on remand and restricted regimes.
  • Prioritisation of reforming organisational practices by the Irish Prison Service with independent oversight by the Inspector of Prisons.

Inspections

  • Enhancing the independence and role of the Inspector of Prisons with increased resourcing to ensure the mandate of the Inspector of Prisons is fulfilled.

Complaints System

  • Establishment of an independent body such as a Prisoner Ombudsman to investigate complaints made by prisoners.

Healthcare

  • Need to appoint a Director of Prison Healthcare services and a comprehensive health needs assessment of the prison population should take place in line with the Inspector of Prisons Recommendations on Healthcare in 2016.
  • Need for comprehensive and holistic addiction treatments across the prison estate.
  • Investment in community based therapies to divert people with mental health issues away from the prison system.

Solitary Confinement

  • Solitary confinement is currently not imposed as an exceptional measure where any restrictions should be subject to a proportionality test as well as a review to secure the least restrictive measures.
  • Solitary confinement should never be imposed on children and if in exceptional circumstances it is, certain minimum safeguards must apply

Access to Structured Activities

  • The budget allocation for work and training in prisons has consistently decreased between 2013-2017. IHREC highlights the importance of prisoners having access to structured activities where resource allocation should reflect this.

Data and Policy Deficits

  • IHREC identifies data and policy deficits which may hamper the development of informed policies. The Commission gives numerous examples such as the lack of data on the prevalence of disability in the prison system, absence of data on gender-specific issues, the absence of policy for transgender prisoners and the need for a database of deaths in custody.

Key Issues raised by IHREC on Issues Relating to Post-Release Reintegration/Transition and Alternatives to Custody

Legislative Developments

  • The principle of ‘imprisonment as a last resort’ should be incorporated into Statute. The use of alternatives to custody should be transparent, consistent and grounded in evidence and reliable data.
  • There is a need for progress on the Criminal Justice (Sentencing and Parole) Bill which would ensure that reasons are provided with imposing prison sentences for minor offences. 
  • A review of the proportionality of mandatory sentences is also recommended by the Commission.

Specific Needs of Vulnerable Groups

  • Greater attention needs to be paid to the particular needs of women and young people who offend. The distinct needs of young offenders should be considered with extended access to non-custodial options for the 18-24 age group.

Reintegration

  • Improve structured release activities including increasing the number of prisoners in open prisons or step down facilities including provision of women-specific supports.
  • Greater investment and support for reintegration and step-down programmes in order to reduce recidivism and help prisoners effectively reintegrate back into society.

To view IHREC’S full report, click here

See Inspector of Prisons Report on 'Healthcare in Irish Prisons' here

See the Mandela Rules here

Learn more