Concern over degrading ‘initiation’ rites in prison

Penal reformers have expressed concern over reported degrading ‘initiation’ rites for young adults in prisons, involving urination and defecation.

The practice, also known as ‘hazing’, includes urinating into kettles, before tricking the young person to make tea, and defecating in the person’s bed.

The acts specifically target those just entering prison and are part of initiation practices by other inmates.

The matter was raised by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (JCFJ) in its submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT), which is examining Irelands’ record in hearings in Geneva.

“The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has learned that young adults in prison have been engaging in ‘initiations’, also referred to as ‘hazing’, when another young person arrives into prison,” the group said.

“Practices include urinating in kettles, before tricking the young person into making a cup of tea, and defecating in a young person’s bed.

“While this is not degrading treatment enacted by state institutions, it is degrading and an issue that needs to be tackled.”

JCFJ deputy director Eoin Carroll told the Irish Examiner: “This behaviour is extremely inappropriate and worrying and needs to be challenged by prison authorities who have a duty of care.”

He said such “juvenile behaviour” was still a form of bullying which is meant to “intimidate and humiliate” the person affected.

He said this practice tied in with the wider issue of the need for special prison arrangements for 18 to 25 year-olds.

“While challenging and working to prevent ‘initiations’ and ‘hazings’ becoming the norm among young adults in prison, the prison service needs to acknowledge that 18 to 25 year-olds are a distinct group with particular needs — especially in the areas of education and psycho-social development,” said Mr Carroll.

He said this could “only be achieved” by providing dedicated facilities and specially trained staff.

“As a society, we no longer accept that children are detained with adults so we should not consider it appropriate to detain young adults, teenagers, with older adults.”

Addressing UNCAT, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, David Stanton, said Ireland no longer sent children to adult prisons — but to the Children’s Detention Centre, which had received €56m in capital expenditure.

He said new rules on solitary confinement had been introduced, and that “great strides” had been made in eliminating slopping out and reducing overcrowding.

The Government was questioned as to the resourcing of prison inspections and the effectiveness and independence of the prison complaints system.

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