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Advisory: UN Committee urges Government to fundamentally review prison health care system and solitary confinement

12th August 2017

PRESS RELEASE

Friday, 11th August 2017 

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed the findings regarding Ireland’s treatment of people in prisons, published by the UN Committee against Torture today (11.08.17). The Committee’s ‘Concluding Observations’ were developed following its examination of the Irish Government’s performance last month.

While the Committee has recognised significant progress achieved by the Government since Ireland’s last examination in 2011, a number of important concerns and recommendations have been detailed in the Committee’s report. They include:

  • The “forthwith” ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) to protect people in all places of detention from ill-treatment.
  • The fundamental review of deficiencies in the prison health care services, including a shortage of qualified medical and psychiatric staff.
  • The need to ensure solitary confinement remains a measure of last resort, is abolished for juveniles [as a disciplinary measure], and is subject to strict supervision and judicial review.
  • The effective and independent monitoring of prisons, including facilitating existing monitoring bodies and civil society organisations to make repeated and unannounced visits and publish reports.
  • The further reduction of the overall prison population, particularly in light of a continuing rise in the number of women in detention, through increased use of community-based sanctions.

Commenting on the observations, Acting Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Fíona Ní Chinnéide said: 

“IPRT welcomes the strong recommendations made by the UN Committee on detention issues, particularly in the areas of solitary confinement and prison health. We also welcome the deserved recognition of real progress achieved since 2011 in addressing some of the most serious human rights issues, including overcrowding, slopping out and imprisonment of children. The progress achieved since 2011 marks the importance of international monitoring and oversight.

“The Committee’s recommendations highlight an opportunity for the Government to commit to timelines for action on OPCAT ahead of the 10th anniversary of Ireland’s signing of the Protocol on 2nd October 2017. The Committee has also highlighted the urgent need for a fundamental review of prison health services, and the use of solitary confinement as a measure of last resort only, and for solitary confinement never to be applied to juveniles, effectively calling for the abolition of this practice as a disciplinary measure for that cohort.

“We welcome the State’s engagement with the Committee in Geneva and the Committee’s insightful recommendations, and we look forward to strong commitments by the Irish Government to progress policies and legislation to ensure these recommendations are met.”

Other issues addressed by the Committee in its observations include:

  • The mechanism for complaints in the prison system.
  • The increase of non-custodial measures and alternatives to detention.
  • In-cell sanitation issues.
  • Inter-prisoner violence.
  • The implementation of the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2016-2018, including the refurbishment of existing facilities and the construction of new ones.

ENDS

Contact: Sebastian Enke, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-3239496.

Note to Editors:

The UN Committee’s Concluding Observations are available for download here: http://bit.ly/2vLQuIN

About the IPRT

Established in 1994, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for rights in the penal system and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy. Its vision is one of respect for rights in the penal system, with prison as a last resort. IPRT is committed to respecting the rights of everyone in the penal system and to reducing imprisonment. It is working towards progressive reform of the penal system based on evidence-led policies and on a commitment to combating social injustice.

IPRT publishes a wide range of policy positions and research documents; it campaigns vigorously across a wide range of penal policy issues; and has established itself as the leading independent voice in public debate on the Irish penal system.