The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed the publication by Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan TD of a report into covert surveillance in prisons. It particularly welcomed the announcement by the Minister of the establishment of a new Prison Service Board with an independent Chair, which will be responsible for developing and upholding improved ethical standards.
Executive Director of IPRT Fíona Ní Chinnéide said: “The decision today to publish the Inspector of Prisons’ report is very important for transparency and public accountability. The fact that some corroboration was identified by the report is important to record, so that learning and lessons can be drawn.
“The effective upholding of allegations concerning deaths in custody and the lack of application of protocols and procedures is an important finding. And while the report states that steps have since been taken to address this extremely serious deficit, the issue needs more interrogation and continuing oversight.”
Ms Ní Chinnéide continued: “IPRT has previously called for the establishment of the Irish Prison Service as an independent prisons authority on a statutory basis, a recommendation that was first made by an expert group, chaired by Dan McAuley, in 1997, when the Irish Prison Service was established. This should be considered again now.
“It is important to stress, however, that this announcement needs to be followed by adequate investment into governance and audit structures for the Irish Prison Service. Governance does not begin and end with the establishment of an independent board: governance infrastructure comprises capacity to monitor, review, report and evaluate. It is also important to note the commitment by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service to introduce a new Code of Ethics to the IPS and improve accountability.
“The decision to create an independent governance structure for the Prison Service comes at a time when there is deepening pressure on the service. In its most recent annual report, the IPS highlighted a number of serious issues, including soaring number of prisoners, overcrowding, and the ongoing detention of people with serious mental health issues in prisons. These critical issues will have a bearing on oversight and governance for any new board structure: without a commitment to address overcrowding in the prison system more generally, there is a looming danger that the new board will become a fire fighting operation.”
IPRT said it looked forward to considering the report in detail to fully evaluate its findings and their implication for people in prison.
Contact: Sebastian Enke, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-3239496