Irish Penal Reform Trust

The Irish Prison Service Release 'Elimination of Solitary Confinement' Policy Document

31st July 2017

In July 2017, the Irish Prison Service issued a new policy to work towards the elimination of solitary confinement. The policy incorporates Rules 44 and 45 of the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (2015). These rules are commonly referred to as the ‘Mandela Rules’.

The policy document outlines that all prisoners should have a minimum two hours of out of cell time with access to meaningful human contact. ‘Meaningful human contact’ is defined by the Irish Prison Service as: ‘Interaction between a prisoner and another person of sufficient proximity so as to allow both to communicate by way of conversation’ (p 3). The policy outlines that Governors should record and retain daily out of cell activities for prisoners detained under Rule 62-65 of the Irish Prison Rules, as well as recording when a prisoner refuses to leave his/her cell to participate in out cell activities. 

The policy document also states that records must be kept where out-of-cell time cannot be availed of in cases where prisoners are deemed medically unfit with reference to a documented opinion of a medical officer which must be retained.

Documentation must be kept in relation to any decision or action taken in relation to the out-of-cell time.

Responsibility of the implementation of this policy lies with Governors, with oversight by the Director of Operations of the Irish Prison Service and with full primary responsibility remaining with the Director General of the Irish Prison Service. The policy document outlines and addresses situations that can arise and offers guidelines on what actions can be taken as well as what is required, for example what paperwork is required, if such actions are taken. Issues such as security, prison lockdown and good order are addressed with instructions of what paperwork is required and timeframes for review of such measures.

This policy came into force on the 11th July 2017 and should remain in place until its review date on the 11th January 2019. 

The policy document is available to read here

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