PENAL reformers and prison officers have welcomed the first report of the new prisons’ inspector.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) said the fact the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, had seen fit to submit an interim report before his annual report highlighted the urgency of the issues he had identified.
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said the report confirmed that overcrowding was a major problem.
In his interim report, published in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, Judge Reilly said he was particularly concerned at overcrowding and violence in prisons and the denial of rights to prisoners with a mental health problem.
The district court judge, who began work last January, said he had already come across cases of “excessive overcrowding” and that vulnerable prisoners faced violence from other inmates.
He further said that prisoners with a mental illness had an “absolute right” to appropriate treatment, but that this was not the case.
IPRT director Liam Herrick said the problems identified by Judge Reilly reflected the issues they and international human rights bodies had raised. These include:
* Prison overcrowding.
* The absence of sentence planning for all prisoners.
* The rising level of inter-prisoner violence.
* The level of drug use in prison.
* The failure to provide proper levels of treatment to severely mentally ill prisoners.
Mr Herrick said he particularly welcomed Judge Reilly’s prioritisation of mental health issues.
“The inspector’s recognition of the right of severely ill prisoners to mental health treatment in an appropriate setting is a landmark statement and we hope that his prioritisation of this issue receives the political attention it demands.”
POA president Jim Mitchell said: “We are glad to see the Inspector of Prisons has identified overcrowding as a significant issue and look forward to his full report.”
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