Irish Penal Reform Trust

The Irish Examiner: UN body told of failings in the oversight of Irish prisons

21st July 2017

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has made a submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture (UNCAT), ahead of the examination of Ireland’s record in implementing the UN Convention against Torture in Geneva next week. The last examination took place in 2011, when UNCAT called on the Irish Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT), which Ireland signed in 2007. IPRT has raised the Government’s slow progress in signing the OP-CAT in its submission, in addition to other concerns.

The frequency of publication of inspection reports on individual prisons by the Inspector of Prisons, and concerns about the adequacy of resources available to the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and its ability to regularly inspect has also been raised, although reports on investigations into deaths in custody have been published regularly, and also important thematic reports. IPRT has asked the committee to recommend an independent review of the effectiveness of prison inspections, stating:

“The most recent published inspection report on an individual prison was published in 2014.

“Since 2008, full inspection reports have been published on only seven out of the 14 prison establishments in Ireland. Similarly, the most recent annual report published was in 2014.”

In addition, IPRT has raised that the Inspector of Prisons and prison visiting committees have expressed concern about healthcare provision in prisons, and has said the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has no remit in Irish prisons. There are on average 20-30 prisoners awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital, and there is a lack of services dealing with co-morbidity of addiction and mental health issues, with 70% of the prison population (85% among female prisoners) having addiction issues.

IPRT has also submitted to UNCAT that the system for investigating complaints of ill-treatment of prisoners was not “effective”, and has long called for a completely independent mechanism of investigating prisoner complaints.

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