Irish Penal Reform Trust

Prison Visiting Committee Annual Reports 2011: Castlerea, Dóchas, Limerick, Loughan House, Midlands, Portlaoise, Shelton Abbey, Training Unit.

22nd October 2012

On 16th October 2012, The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, published the 2011 annual reports of the Visiting Committees for Castlerea, The Dóchas Centre, Limerick, Loughan House, the Midlands, Portlaoise, Shelton Abbey and the Training Unit.

The reports may be accessed here:

Castlerea Prison Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

  • The Visiting Committee noted in particular that the closure of Roscommon A&E will have serious consequences for the prison. Any prisoner requiring urgent medical treatment will have to go to Galway or Castlebar. This potentially raises both staffing and welfare concerns.

The Dóchas Centre Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

  • Staffing levels at the Dóchas Centre were noted in this report, which states that prison escorts and the occasional cover needed by Mountjoy are increasing pressure on the Centre. This is having an effect on the provision of classes. 
  • Accommodation and general maintenance standards have deteriorated.
  • The Committee expressed concern for those prisoners with serious mental health issues and questioned whether they can be cared for adequately in The Dóchas Centre.
  • They also felt that the plan for a block at the prison would be "a serious step backwards" and warned of the potential for serious overcrowding. However since the publishing of this report, the Irish Prison Service has shelved this plan. Read the Irish Examiner article on this issue here.

Limerick Prison Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

  • The number of prisoners seeking protection in Limerick Prison is at an all time high.
  • The probation service within the prison has unfortunately been reduced to just one probation officer.
  • The Committee commented on the continued availability of drugs in the prison, despite the best efforts of staff. However, they did commend staff on the work which has been done to date.

Loughan House Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

The Midlands Prison Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

  • One issue which has been identified is the difficulties which families have had in attempting to book visits to the prison.There is only one dedicated line for this purpose. The Committee's 2010 report did raise this, and in response an answering service was established. However this has been accompanied by its own problems, as callers are put on hold and occasionally run out of call credit before managing to book a visit with their family member. 

Portlaoise Prison Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

  • The Portlaoise Visiting Committee were pleased with the new C-Block. However they noted with disappointment that only 2 of the workshops in the block have been opened. This is due to the fact that no extra staff have been transferred to Portlaoise to date to operate the new facilities. 

Shelton Abbey Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

The Training Unit Visiting Committee Annual Report 2011

  • In January 2011 the Committee learned the details of a new initiative which aims to help maintain relationships between offenders and their children during their sentence.
  • However, on a less positive note, on the August 2011 monthly visit a member of the Committee was disappointed to see that all workshops, the music room and the art room were closed.

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

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