Thursday 9th October, 2014.
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald TD, today published the 2013/2014 Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly. The Report outlines the work undertaken by the Inspector for the period 1st January 2013 to the date of the Report, 26th August 2014.
The Office of the Inspector of Prisons is a statutory independent office established under the Prisons Act, 2007. The Inspector's key role is to carry out regular inspections of prisons and to submit an Annual Report to the Minister. The Inspector may also investigate any matter arising out of the management or operation of a prison and submit a report on any such investigation.
Speaking on publication, Minister Fitzgerald said: "I welcome the publication of the Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly. The Inspector provides an invaluable independent and reforming oversight of our prisons and I would like to thank him once again for all of his efforts."
The Minister went on to state: "I am pleased that the Inspector acknowledges the current Irish Prison Service building programme, the reduction in the prison population and the new and innovative structures which have been put in place. I am also pleased to note that the Inspector is confident that the vision of the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Mr. Michael Donnellan, and his management team augers well for the future of Irish prisons.
"However, while much of the report is positive, issues of concern remain which include the continued accommodation of a small cohort of 17 year old remand children in St. Patrick's, bullying by prisoner on prisoner and staff on staff, line management structures, prisoners on protection and overcrowding, in the Dóchas Centre in particular .”
Minister Fitzgerald said that: "Considerable progress has been made and the Inspector can be assured that every effort will continue to be made to fully address any deficiencies identified.
"One of the Government’s priorities is to remove 17 year old offenders from the adult prison system. Progress has been made and the detention of children in St. Patrick’s Institution will end with the provision of more appropriate accommodation and regimes in the new detention facility at Oberstown later this year. My Department is also taking steps to prepare the General Scheme of a Bill to provide for the complete closure of St Patrick’s Institution.”
It is the policy of the Irish Prison Service that all persons are treated with dignity and respect at all times and this applies to every person, regardless of their role and background, as part of the prison community. The Irish Prison Service is committed to treating each other fairly, with courtesy, respecting personal dignity at all times. The Director General of the Prison Service announced the implementation of a Dignity at Work Programme as part of the 3 year strategic plan. A Dignity at Work Programme for staff centred around an Acceptable Behaviour Policy and a Well Being At Work Policy will be launched in early 2015. A programme aimed at addressing inter-prisoner relationships will also be introduced.
The Inspector has called for the provision of an open centre for women with an emphasis on preparation for life after release from prison. In the ‘Joint Probation Service – Irish Prison Service Strategy 2014-2016, An Effective Response to Women Who Offend’, the Irish Prison Service committed to exploring the development of an open centre for women prisoners assessed as a low risk of re-offending. A subgroup has been established to examine where such a facility might be provided within the existing prison estate. This group are required to make their recommendations to the Irish Prison Service Senior Management Team during the third quarter of 2014.
On the issue of healthcare provision in prisons, healthcare audits have been conducted in Wheatfield, Midlands, Arbour Hill, Dochas and Limerick prisons. It is intended that audits in the remaining prisons will be completed by the end of 2014. When all the audits have been completed and a final report submitted, the recommendations will be considered and necessary actions taken in an effort to ensure that the level of healthcare provision across all prisons meets the appropriate clinical standards within a prison environment.
In relation to deficiencies highlighted by the Inspector regarding management checks to ensure compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) the Director General of the Irish Prison Service has raised the matter at monthly management meetings, and Governors and prison management are fully aware of the necessity to ensure that the appropriate checks are carried out and Standard Operating Procedures complied with.
Minister Fitzgerald said: "It is clear that lessons need to be learnt, and these lessons must be applied across the whole prison system.
"I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the Director General raises issues identified by the Inspector at monthly management meetings with Prison Governors and Directors in order to ensure that deficiencies highlighted in one prison are checked for and addressed, as necessary, in other institutions. Directorates also bring such matters to the attention of prison management through circulars, instructions, visits etc.”
The Minister concluded: "On 17th September 2014, I published the Final Report of the Penal Policy Review Group. The report presents a penal policy which aims to make Ireland a safer and fairer place. This wide ranging and historic review provides an opportunity to reflect on aspects of future penal policy and practice. The Group’s recommendations will, in the future, make a positive contribution to a more progressive penal policy in Ireland. I look forward to implementing these important reforms and I am confident they will make a difference.”
The report is available on the Department's website at www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000274