The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has today (27.11.17) emphasised the need to urgently address issues of concern identified in the 2015/2016 Annual Report of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, published by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, TD, last week.
The report is the first issued by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons since the untimely death of Judge Michael Reilly in November 2016. Following the death of Judge Reilly, Helen Casey was appointed to continue the work of the office on an interim basis, pending the appointment of a new Inspector of Prisons.
The report acknowledges that much has been achieved by the Irish Prison Service since the first report was published in 2008, including improvements to the prison estate and the reduction of the prison population. However, the report also highlights a number of matters of particular concern, including:
- Prisoners presenting with mental health issues.
- Access of prisoners to school, workshops, support and intervention services.
- Prisoners on various ‘restricted regimes’.
- Deficiencies in the line management structure within the Irish prison system.
- The continuing entry of contraband into the prison system.
Commenting on the report, Executive Director of IPRT, Deirdre Malone said: “The report highlights that a significant number of issues faced by the Irish prison system for decades still remain and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. In particular, we are calling for appropriate responses to prisoners presenting with mental health issues, and to staffing shortages, which regularly impact on the provision of educational activities and support services.
“Prisons should not be used as a holding ground for people with serious mental health issues. Those with mental health needs too severe to be properly cared for in a prison setting should be diverted to appropriate treatment services outside prison. For individuals who are not assessed as in need of transfer to mental health facilities outside prison, appropriate mental health supports should be available within prison. As well as increasing the ratio of psychologists to prisoners, the Irish Prison Service should regularly publish anonymised mental health data, including waiting lists for assessments and transfers to mental health facilities.
“We would also like to see the publication of information to monitor the adequate provision of education on Irish prisons. Educational Training Boards should record the frequency and proportion of schools being open to ensure that prison staff shortages are not impacting on access to education for the prison population. When staffing shortages result in a reduction of school hours the rehabilitative and educative functions of prisons are sabotaged.”
“For reporting to be truly effective, the Irish Prison Service should ensure the prompt implementation of all recommendations made by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons.”
Contact: Sebastian Enke, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-3239496
Note to Editors:
- Executive Director of IPRT, Deirdre Malone, is available for comment on request
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.