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‘Unacceptable’ conditions for mentally ill prisoners

11th July 2018

The Irish Times reported on 9 July 2018 that mentally ill prisoners are being forced to sleep on the floor in Dublin’s Cloverhill Prison due to lack of room in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH).

There are approximately 30 prisoners on the waiting list for the CMH, many of whom are being forced into isolation cells in Cloverhill for their own protection due to a shortage of qualified staff.

The lack of mental health services in the community is leading to an increase in crime related to homelessness and untreated mental illness. These untreated illnesses are then further exacerbated by the extended wait times in unsuitable prison environments. 

IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone spoke to Irish Legal News on 10 July 2018, in response to the Irish Times article: 

“It is utterly unacceptable that prisons are being used to warehouse people who should be in the care of a secure health facility. Prison is no place for those who are suffering from severe mental illness. The consequence is that the men are not accessing the appropriate treatment, causing acute individual suffering and potentially leading to the deterioration of their condition. This also places unreasonable demands on prison staff.”

“The investigation into the tragic death of Gary Douch in Mountjoy Prison in 2006 prompted a comprehensive suite of recommendations around forensic mental health care. Few of these recommendations have so far been implemented, and they need to be implemented in full.”

“Multiple actions need to be taken urgently, including: building capacity in community mental health services, including community forensic mental health teams; increasing mental health staff with appropriate expertise within the prison system; and increasing provision at the new designated centre at Portrane, so that Ireland can provide adequate forensic mental health beds in line with real need.”

The conditions within Cloverhill are worsening, with the Irish Times reporting that over 80 cases were received by the Prison In-Reach and Court Liaison Service before June 2018, compared to 80 cases in total during previous years.

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