UN body told of failings in the oversight of Irish prisons

The UN torture committee has been told of failings in the oversight of Irish prisons, the investigation of complaints of ill treatment and prison healthcare.

Penal reformers also strongly criticised Ireland’s slow progress in ratifying an international convention against torture — one that it signed 10 years ago.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust made a submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture which is examining Ireland’s record in implementing the UN Convention against Torture in Geneva next week.

The UN committee’s examination follows its last investigation in 2011.

The trust expressed its concern at the frequency of publication of inspection reports on individual prisons by the Inspector of Prisons.

“The most recent published inspection report on an individual prison was published in 2014,” it said.

“Since 2008, full inspection reports have been published on only seven out of the 14 prison establishments in Ireland. Similarly, the most recent annual report published was in 2014.”

It did say reports on investigations into deaths in custody have been published regularly and the inspector had also published important thematic reports.

The trust said that it had continuing concerns regarding the resources available to the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and its ability to regularly inspect.

The reform group asked the UN committee to recommend an independent review of the effectiveness of prison inspections.

The trust said the Inspector of Prisons and prison visiting committees had expressed concern about healthcare provision and said the Health Information and Quality Authority had no remit in prisons.

It said an internal Prison Service review in 2015 found that the psychology service was disjointed from other services and had very stringent referral criteria and had waiting lists of 12 months or more.

The submission said that there were on average 20-30 prisoners awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital. It claimed there was a lack of services dealing with co-morbidity of addiction and mental health issues, noting 70% of the prison population (85% among female prisoners) had addiction issues.

The trust said the system for investigating complaints of ill-treatment was not “effective” and it had long called for a completely independent mechanism.

The submission noted that in 2011 the committee had called on the Government to expedite its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture).

It said progress continued to be slow and noted Ireland signed it in 2007.


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