Irish Penal Reform Trust

Parole Board Report: Prisoners with mental health issues denied TR because 'essential community supports were not available'

1st November 2016

In the 2015 Annual Report of the Parole Board, published on the 28th October 2016, Chairman John Costello has drawn attention to the lack of mental health supports in the community for prisoners on temporary release or parole, resulting in the further detention of individuals with mental health issues, even though they have been deemed suitable for temporary release by the Parole Board. 

Mr. Costello specifically highlighted the cases of three life-sentenced prisoners, each of whom had served over 17 years. In all three cases, the Parole Board felt that the prisoners should be recommended for temporary release. However, two of the individuals suffered serious psychiatric issues, and one of the prisoners had an intellectual disability. As a result, the Board felt that it could not recommend the individuals for temporary release as "the essential community supports were not available". 

Mr. Costello stated that the dearth of mental health services in the community for prisoners on parole was an issue of prime concern for the future: "As hundreds of prisoners have serious psychiatric problems or intellectual disability problems, this is going to become a more regular occurrence. Indeed Professor of Psychiatry, Brendan Kelly, in a 2016 letter to the Irish Times stated that 'prisons are toxic for the mentally ill'."

Imprisonment should not be used as respite, nor as a means of providing an individual with access to services, such as counselling. Individuals should not be imprisoned or further punished because of their mental health issues. Rule 110 of the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that "steps should be taken, by arrangement with the appropriate agencies, to ensure if necessary the continuation of psychiatric treatment after release and the provision of social-psychiatric after-care", while the UN's Bangkok Rules recommend that authorities should "ensure that those with mental health care needs are housed in accommodation which is not restrictive, and at the lowest possible security level, and receive appropriate treatment, rather than being placed in higher security level facilities solely due to their mental health problems". The Parole Board's Report suggests that practice in Ireland may not consistently meet these standards.

Read more:

  • Parole Board Annual Report 2015, available here, with the paragraph of concern on p. 4.
  • Prof. Brendan Kelly's letter in the Irish Times here.
  • UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners here.
  • UN Rules on the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) here

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



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