54. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to regulate in law the practice of placing prisoners in solitary confinement. [40422/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will be aware the Private Members Bill, the Prisons (Solitary Confinement) (Amendment) Bill 2016, was debated in the House on 1 December 2016 where it passed second stage.
As was explained during the Second Stage Debate, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) had already committed in its current Strategic Plan to compliance with international human rights obligations and this plan makes specific reference to the consideration of the implementation of the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners - known as the ‘Mandela Rules’ - in respect of solitary confinement. The Director General of the IPS has established a sub-committee to draft a policy with the aim of eliminating, insofar as is possible, such regimes from Irish prisons – acknowledging that there will always be medical exceptions, particularly given the number of seriously mentally ill prisoners currently held in Irish prisons and awaiting admission to the Central Mental Hospital and other mental health facilities. It is anticipated that the draft policy will be presented for consideration by end of January 2017.
When that draft policy is to hand, I will consider the matter further.