512. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the lengths of time individual prisoners were placed in safety observation cells, closed observation cells and 22 and 23 hour lock up in 2017 and to date in 2018, by prison in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25085/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that the data in relation to the duration of time individual prisoners were placed in Safety Observation Cells, Close Supervision Cells, 22 hour lock up and 23 hour lock up is not collated in the format requested. To collate this data would require a manual examination of a large number of individual prisoner records. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort, which could not be justified where there are other significant demands on resources.
I can advise the Deputy that special arrangements are in place for prisoners who have been identified as being at risk, whereby they are placed in either a Safety Observation Cell or Close Supervision Cell on special observation and checked every 15 minutes. Prisoners who may have received bad news (for example a bereavement) are also closely monitored. There is a clear distinction between Safety Observation Cells which are used only for medical health reasons and Close Supervision Cells which are used for managing violent, disruptive or distressed prisoners.
The restriction of a prisoner's regime can occur due to a number of factors, including the protection of vulnerable prisoners. This is provided for under Rule 63 of the Prison Rules 2007. A prisoner may, either at his/her own request or when the Governor considers it necessary, in so far as is practicable and subject to the maintenance and good order and safe and secure custody, be kept separate from other prisoners who are reasonably likely to cause significant harm to him/her.
Under Rule 62 of the Prison Rules 2007 a Governor may decide, for the maintenance of good order in the prison, to remove a prisoner from general association or structured activity to reduce the negative effect that a prisoner or prisoners may have on the general population. In addition a smaller number of prisoners may have their regimes restricted for medical (Rule 64) or discipline reasons (Rule 67).
The Prison Rules 2007 provide that the imposition of a restricted regime is closely monitored by the Irish Prison Service and the status of each prisoner on restricted regime within the prison system is regularly reviewed. The collation of a Quarterly Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners commenced in 2013. This census is published on its website (www.irishprisons.ie) and includes details on a prison by prison basis of the number of prisoners on 22 and 23 hour lock-up each quarter.