New report highlights mental health and education problems in Irish prisons

A new report has highlighted ongoing problems in the Irish prison system.

The report is part of a series of three looking at issues such conditions, accountability and reintegration.

This is the second annual report from the Irish Penal Reform Trust highlighting human rights issues in our prisons.

According to the report, the Irish penal system continues to fall short of international best practice.

Three main areas have been highlighted in the report as needing urgent attention. The first is mental health services.

Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Deirdre Malone, says many people with mental health issues are being detained in the prison system when they should be receiving professional medical care.

"In terms of mental health there's a lack of adequate mental health services and that's particularly for those with severe and enduring mental illness," Ms Malone said.

What that means is on a daily basis, there are between 20 and 30 people in the prison system who should not be there, who should have been identified as requiring transfer to the Central Mental Hospital but there are no places for them.

A second problem area is the increase in the number of women being detained leading to consistent overcrowding in the two women's prisons.

The report also finds staffing levels are impacting day to day activity in the prison service.

Ms Malone believes this is having a knock on effect on the ability to help educate and rehabiltate prisoners.

"What we're also seeing is regular closure of prison schools, classes and workshops," she said.

"That's due to insufficient staff numbers on a daily basis to bring prisoners to their classes.

Prison education is one of the areas which is positive activity in terms of rehabilitation.

As the government continues to grapple with the health and housing crisis, the report also highlights that the issues are interlinked with one in six prisoners identifying as homeless on commital and 70% reporting addiction issues.

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