Dóchas Centre shabby, says report

The visiting committee of the Dóchas Centre women’s prison have complained of shabby accommodation, overcrowding, lack of toilets for visitors, and inadequate medical, dental, and mental health services.

Their report, together with the reports of visiting committees for Cloverhill and Castlerea prisons, were published yesterday by Alan Shatter, the justice minister.

All three reports raised serious concerns at the lack of staffing levels in the jails and the effect this had on services and facilities.

The Dóchas Centre visiting committee said the general state of the Dublin jail was “shabby” and that the roof had leaks. It said the kitchens were “in a state of disrepair”, with doors missing or falling off and many domestic appliances not working. It said some communal recreation rooms were used as bedrooms.

The report said that while the centre was built to accommodate 85 women, daily records typically recorded between 120 and 130 inmates. The report welcomed the construction of a new wing.

The committee said it received many complaints from visitors, particularly those with children, about the absence of toilets.

It said this was “wholly unacceptable”.

There were complaints in relation to access to pain relief, dental health, and lack of mental health training among staff. The committee said it had “great concerns” at staff levels and expressed a desire for a more open style of prison.

Inspectors complemented staff and noted nets aimed at stopping contraband were working.

The visiting committee at Cloverhill said overcrowding was a problem with a population of more than 500 at times, resulting in inmates sleeping on floors.

It complained at the removal of passive drug dogs at the prison. It said TB was a “major concern” for both inmates and staff, but the situation had improved.

It also said both the library and the gym had been undermined by lack of staff. The committee praised the education programme, the introduction of integrated sentence management, the provision of workshops, and the running of the kitchen.

The Castlerea visiting committee report said the prison was short of seven staff.

While expressing concern at staffing levels, it said the Roscommon prison was very well run and praised the professionalism of staff.

It praised the actions of staff in preventing attempted suicides in the prison.

Mr Shatter said he acknowledged the concerns of the Cloverhill and Dóchas visiting committees around overcrowding and the impact of staffing levels.

He said the opening of 20 extra spaces at Dóchas would increase its capacity from 85 to 105 and that refurbishment elsewhere in the centre was ongoing.

*For the full reports, see www.justice.ie

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