Five prisons have not undergone inspection in 10 years, says Inspector

Only one prison inspection report has been published in the last five years and no inspections have been conducted in five jails over the last 10 years, the Inspector of Prisons has said.

Patricia Gilheaney said there is a legal requirement to conduct inspections of prisons on a regular basis.

She laid the blame for this failure on a lack of resources and said she believes that her office is “not fit for purpose”.

Ms Gilheaney said no inspections have been conducted by her office on Cork, Portlaoise, Midlands, Cloverhill and Wheatfield prisons in the last 10 years.

They account for half of the country's 10 closed prisons.

Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, the inspector said that when she assumed the position a year ago she became aware that the office, in her opinion, “did not appear to be fit for purpose” for a modern inspectorate.

She said that with the support of officials in the Department of Justice an external review conducted by PA Consulting was commissioned and that she forwarded the report to the minister last December.

“I have some concerns that since the establishment on a statutory footing only one prison inspection report has been published since 2014, that was in 2017,” she said.

She said there has been no prison inspection report from her office in the last 10 years on five prisons.

“It is a legal requirement, under the legislation, that there would be regular inspection of prisons," she said.

“That's not to say there hasn't been visits to prisons but in terms of formalised reports subsequent to formal inspections there are five prisons that haven't had inspections.”

She said this is “down to resources”, saying her office consisted of herself, the deputy inspector Helen Casey and two administrative staff and a budget of €496,000.

Patricia Gilheaney
Patricia Gilheaney

Ms Gilheaney said apart from the key role her office plays in conducting inspections, it is also requested by the minister to conduct investigations, including investigations into deaths or prisoners.

She said there have been 75 deaths in prisons or involving prisoners on temporary release, over the last five years and that this year, to date, there have been seven deaths.

She said a dedicated investigation team in the Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has five staff and investigates five deaths per year, on average.

Ms Gilheaney said there is “no comparison” in resources.

The inspector also commented on her most recent report, that into the death of an inmate, who was supposed to be on special observation, in Limerick Prison.

That report, which was revealed in the Irish Examiner last Saturday, found that while the prisoner was supposed to have been checked 39 times – every 15 minutes – while under lockup, he was only checked nine times.

She said she is pleased that the Irish Prison Service director general, Caron McCaffrey, has introduced measures across the prison state which will implement recommendations made by the inspector regarding such deaths.

More on this topic

UK report finds thousands of 'super-prolific' criminals spared jail last yearUK report finds thousands of 'super-prolific' criminals spared jail last year

Overcrowded prisons: Major challengeOvercrowded prisons: Major challenge

Call for numbers being sentenced to prison to be 'urgently reduced'Call for numbers being sentenced to prison to be 'urgently reduced'

People on bail commit 11% of all crimesPeople on bail commit 11% of all crimes

More in this Section

Man dies in crash between car and motorbike in Co CorkMan dies in crash between car and motorbike in Co Cork

No winner of Lotto jackpot but someone is €1m richerNo winner of Lotto jackpot but someone is €1m richer

Hundreds protest in Cork city against closure of An Post mail centreHundreds protest in Cork city against closure of An Post mail centre

Loyalist flute band plays in PortrushLoyalist flute band plays in Portrush


Lifestyle

Trees along Dublin’s thoroughfares face a death sentence. In streets choked with vehicles, it’s proposed to cut them down so that buses can operate more efficiently.A little bit of nature a week is good for you

In the realms of the imagination, more is usually better. Why restrict ourselves to one make-believe island?Islands of Ireland: Last Buss to imaginary island

A new exhibition reminds us how electric kitchen appliances revolutionised life for women in rural Ireland in the 1950s and ‘60s, in the wake of the ESB’s massive scheme of rural electrification from 1946 until as late as the 1970s, writes Ellie O’Byrne.How electric-powered kitchen appliances revolutionised life for rural Ireland's women in the 50s

Javier Cercas’s new novel, ‘Lord of All the Dead’, is as preoccupied with the Spanish Civil War, the nature of heroism, and the distortions of history as his most famous, ‘Soldiers of Salamis’, says Alannah Hopkin .Book Review: Lord of All the Dead; Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

More From The Irish Examiner