THE Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has described as “disturbing” findings in an independent report of a “culture of impunity” among some prison officers in Mountjoy Jail.
A report by the inspector of prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, said it was clear that a number of injuries had been received by prisoners in the jail.
He found that in a number of cases, gardaí were satisfied that something had happened but, because of a lack of evidence, it was not possible to prosecute any prison officers.
Quoting an internal investigation by the prison service, the inspector said the problem was leading to “the beginning of a culture of impunity, advantage of which is being taken by a group of staff”.
Responding, Liam Herrick of the penal reform trust, said: “Some of the most disturbing findings of this report and of the Irish Prison Service report which it refers to were that a significant number of incidents where prisoners suffered serious injuries did not lead to effective investigations within the prison or by the Garda.
“While the report paints a shocking picture of a culture of impunity within the prison system, the bringing of these issues into the public domain is a strong vindication of the system of prison inspection.”
He said the report showed how the inspector had brought his concerns to the Department of Justice and to prison management and that the investigation by the prison service had uncovered the extent of the problems within Mountjoy.
“The statement of Justice Minister Alan Shatter that he will now put the complaints system on a statutory footing meets a key gap in Irish law which IPRT has been campaigning on for many years.
“IPRT hopes that this report marks a watershed in addressing the problems within our prisons. The fact that it was the prison service itself that has identified the serious issues at Mountjoy marks an important progression from how problems within the prison system have been dealt with in the past.”
But Mr Herrick added that while the inspector’s report contained many positive examples of where management had acted on the inspector’s recommendations to improve the general running of the prison, “worryingly” it showed no progress on the key problem of overcrowding, with Mountjoy continuing to operate at “dangerously unsustainable” levels of occupancy.
“The inspector found that in March of this year, the prison held just under 700 prisoners, while he assessed the safe custody level as 517.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved