26th March 2013
Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, has disclosed in a Dáil question (21st March 2013) that 44 young offenders are locked up 23 hours a day in St. Patrick's Institution, including two 17 year old boys. This represents a fifth of the prisoners held in St Patrick's Instn.
Of particular concern are three prisoners aged 17 on protection, two of whom are locked up for 23 hours per day. Protection prisoners are those prisoners considered to be under threat or ‘at risk’ in the general population. This may arise as a result of a request from the prisoner or after consideration by prison management.
In total, 193 prisoners are currently locked up for 23 hours a day for protection in the Irish Prison System; children and young men in St Patrick’s Institution alone account for 23% of this number. The number of prisoners on protection in the institution has greatly increased in the past two years. In July 2010, no prisoners were held on 23-hour lock up, increasing to two in November 2011 and rising alarmingly to 66 on July 13th 2012.
Mr. Shatter has stated that all prisoners on protection receive 1.5 hours of education and 1 hour exercise on a daily basis. Prisoners also have access to the gym area twice weekly for an hour. There are no restrictions on the number of visits they receive, the number of phone calls they make, they also have access to the mental health and drug counsellors on a priority basis.
IPRT notes that the high levels prisoners on protection in St. Patrick’s Institution are particularly worrying considering the age and vulnerability of the young offenders involved. The institution accounts for one third of all recorded assaults in the Irish prison system, the highest number of all assaults across the prison estate.
A vital part of IPRT's work has been campaigning to remove children from St. Patrick’s Institution, an adult prison. Ireland has been continuously criticised by national and international bodies due to its failure in this regard. However, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has committed to ending the detention of 17 year old boys in the prison by 2014. There are currently thirty-two 17 year old prisoners in St. Patrick’s Institution in violation of international law and domestic penal policy.
Furthermore, the Minister for Justice has committed to ending the detention of young men aged 18-21 in the prison by December 2013, as stated in the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012 - 2015.