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Findings of Mountjoy Visiting Committee Report of serious concern

17th January 2018

The Irish Penal Reform Trust notes the publication of 14 reports from the visiting committees for each of Ireland’s prisons.

Executive Director of IPRT, Deirdre Malone said:

“Yesterday we saw the publication of all 14 Prison Visiting Committee reports, with all reports relating to prison visits in 2016.  While many of the issues identified by the visiting committees remain relevant, a more systematic and timely approach is required in the production and publication of these reports. This would allow for a real-time targeted response to issues as they arise. IPRT would like to see the prison visiting reports for 2017 published by early 2018, and not in 2019.”

IPRT said the reports clearly point to drugs-related violence as a key issue for the Irish Prison Service. It said that solitary confinement, and extended periods of isolation, were still being used across the prison system to manage this problem. In this regard IPRT are particularly concerned about the situation in Mountjoy prison where it has been reported that at times one in four prisoners are ‘on protection’.

Ms. Malone continued: “using isolation as a tool for the management of prison violence creates new problems for prisoners.  Prolonged isolation prevents prisoners from accessing education, training and out of cell time and this, in turn, can have serious impacts on mental health.  While there is a prison policy in place to eliminate the use of solitary confinement since July 2017, more concerted effort to address the core issue of drug-related violence must be taken across government departments. 

According to Ms Malone: “The Irish Prison Service should also further develop a range of initiatives to address violence in prisons. These may include, but should not be limited to, restorative justice approaches and weapons amnesties. Where a prisoner requests to be kept on protection for an extended period, this should be kept under constant review.”

Further specific measures that could be taken include:

  1. The introduction of special supports to encourage prisoners to come off a restricted regime where it is assessed as safe to do so, including access to a step-down programme.
  2. The provision of meaningful access to work, training and education, as well as other activities and services for prisoners on protection. As far as possible this should be in association with other prisoners.
  3. Increased family contact through prison visits and phone calls.
  4. The amendment of the Prison Rules, to include regular examination of prisoners  on protection by a prison doctor. Such examination should include both physical and mental health assessment by appropriately trained medical personnel.

ENDS

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.

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