Irish Penal Reform Trust

MEDIA ADVISORY: Horrific Report on St. Patrick’s Instn. raises questions over continued operation of prison

16th October 2012


This evening (Tuesday, 16th October, 2012) the IPRT responded with shock and deep concern at the findings of the Inspector of Prison’s Report on an Inspector of St. Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders. The report unveils systematic violation of the human rights of children and young people in the prison, including:

  • Forced stripping and clothes being cut from boys and young men when being held in Special Cells. The Inspector refers to the fact that this is especially serious where many of the prisoners in St. Patrick’s may have previously been the victims of physical and/or sexual abuse.
  • Inappropriate and excessive use of Special Cells in violation of the Irish Prison Service’s own guidelines and rules.
  • Excessive and unrecorded use of force by staff against prisoners, in violation of the Irish Prison Service’s own guidelines and rules; disproportionate number of under-18s being relocated using control and restraint (C&R) techniques.
  • Excessive and unauthorised punishment of prisoners, including denying children family visits or phone calls. The Inspector also found practices of undocumented “isolation” of a number of prisoners in solitary confinement for 56 days following an incident at the prison.
  • Bullying and intimidation of young and vulnerable inmates by some staff, and indifference to concerns of inmates, including emergency calls for help. The report records a number of prisoners who were experiencing severe distress and who were afraid to communicate what had happened to them.
  • A completely deficient complaints system where no complaint by a prisoner was upheld, even where prison management had acknowledged that staff had behaved inappropriately. A study of some cases suggested widespread intimidation of prisoners wishing to make a complaint.
  • At a general level, the Inspector also found serious deficiencies in attendance at school, access to healthcare and the availability of training. He also found many parts of the prison cold and dirty.

Responding this evening, IPRT Executive Director, Liam Herrick said:

“As far back as 1985, the Whitaker Report recommended the closing of St. Patrick's Institution. The range of violation of the rights of inmates detailed in the Inspector of Prisons' 2012 Report is so broad, and the problems so deep-rooted, that IPRT believes this report calls into question the viability of continuing to operate the prison.It is a completely unacceptable way to treat any prisoners, least of all young people.

The depiction of terrified boys and young men afraid to report assaults that they have suffered is chilling. That this could happen in the 21st century to children and young people anywhere is shocking. That it could happen in Ireland, with all that we know about institutional abuse and the impact it has on children, is an absolute national disgrace.“

The Minister for Justice has stated that he intends to introduce primary legislation for the purpose of closing St. Patrick’s Institution as a detention centre for offenders aged 21 and under. IPRT looks forward to more detail, including a timeline, on these proposals."

IPRT notes that a new Governor has been appointed to St. Patrick’s Institution and IPRT acknowledges the efforts of new management to address the systemic problems in the prison. However, the extent of the problems unveiled in this report are so serious, they demand a wide range of further action, including – but not limited to:

  • A review of the viability of operating St Patrick's Institution into the future
  • The bringing forward of the 2014 timeline for ending the detention of under-18s in that prison
  • The identification and removal of staff found to have bulled and intimidated prisoners in the prison
  • A strategy to reduce - with urgency - the extremely high levels of protection and 23-hour lock up used in the prison, considering its particularly negative impact on the mental health of children and young people
  • The creation of a new committal area is positive, but at this point the IPS still cannot provide a necessary High Support Unit or provide satisfactory clothing for prisoners.

For media queries, or to arrange an interview with IPRT Executive Director, Liam Herrick, contact: Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust: 087 181 2990


1. Figures from 13th July 2012

  • 217 prisoners in total in St Patrick's Institution
  • 66 of these were on protection (30%)
  • 51 of those were on a restricted regime (this number had risen by 16% within a 7 month period)
  • 49 of those on the restricted regime spent 20-22 hours per day locked up. The remaining 2 spent 22-23 hours a day in their cells.
  • The Institution is responsible for a third of all assaults in the prison system.

(Source: Irish Examiner, 30% of St Pat’s inmates on protection and locked up for over 20 hours a day, 28th Sept 2012)

IPRT previously welcomed that since August 2012 16-year olds are no longer detained in the Institution; IPRT also welcomed the extension in June 2012 of the complaints remit of the Ombudsman for Children to include the 17-year old boys who are detained in the prison. However, given the shocking findings in this report, and as echoed by the Inspector within the report, the timeline of 2014 for bringing to a complete end the detention of children in St Patrick's Institution must be revisited – with urgency.

2. Inspector of Prisons Report on St. Patrick's Institution

Submitted by the Inspector to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on 26th June 2012; published by the Department of Justice on 16th October 2012. Download here:

3. Detention of Children in St Patrick’s Institution – IPRT Briefing

IPRT has outlined our serious concerns about the ongoing detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution, which is in breach of human rights standards, in a short Briefing. Download here:

4Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort:

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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