4th August 2023
The Minister for Justice has announced that she has secured Government approval to publish the Draft General Scheme of the Irish Prison Service Bill 2023.
The proposed Bill will establish the Irish Prison Service (IPS) on a statutory footing with defined functions and responsibilities and with oversight and support from an independent non-executive board. This will also include a dedicated audit committee and other expert committees, as required.
The new structures will aim to provide the highest standards of governance and accountability, and the Draft Scheme also provides that the IPS will provide prisoners with services and activities to support their health, spiritual, moral, and mental well-being. Other statutory functions will include managing the prison estate and co-operating with other State actors in the interests of prisoner welfare and an efficient criminal justice system.
IPRT has previously called for the Irish Prison Service to be placed on a statutory footing to ensure it maintains the highest standards of governance and accountability. However, the decision to create an independent governance structure comes at a time when there is deepening pressure on the Irish Prison Service, including increasing levels of overcrowding. This issue – and other critical issues such as the high proportion of people with mental ill-health in the prison system – will have a bearing on oversight and governance for any new structure.
IPRT will be reviewing the Draft General Scheme of the Irish Prison Service Bill 2023 closely in the coming weeks.