Visiting committees highlight conditions in prisons

VISITING committees have released their annual reports for 2005 on Ireland’s prisons. Here are the main concerns expressed.

Portlaoise Prison: The committee was concerned D-Block was still being used despite its recommendation it be closed down immediately, though it welcomed work starting on a new C-block.

Wheatfield Prison: The committee !said it was in ‘pristine’ condition, ‘consistently clean and tidy’.

Midlands Prison: The committee recommended that equipment be bought to monitor or block the use of mobile phones by prisoners in the facility and recommended facilities be improved to rehabilitate those dependent on drugs or alcohol.

St Patrick’s Institution: The committee voiced concerns that there is no separate detention facility for children between 16-18 years of age and said it was a priority for the coming year requiring significant capital. They expressed concerns that remand prisoners from 16 years upwards are sent to St Patrick’s. It said they need to be kept in separate facilities.

Shelton Abbey: The committee called for a psychologist to be available for offenders who had experienced suicide among family and friends and called for more ‘long-term offenders’ to be sent to the facility as it would provide better opportunities for teachers to deliver more intense educational programmes.

Limerick Prison: The committee said in-cell sanitation should be extended to the two wings that do not have it ‘as a matter of priority and urgency’ and said there was an ongoing battle against substance abuse. It also recommended a wider range of employment be available to inmates to prepare them for release.

Cork Prison: The committee found that overcrowding still existed but said it was not to the same extent as previous years. Sanitation still remained a controversy.

Cloverhill Prison: The committee said it was disappointed that the opening of its educational unit was being put on hold once again which it had been pursuing since 2000. The committee referred to a ‘few disturbing incidents in 2005’, including the severe beating of a prisoner in the exercise yard, a ‘dreadful attack’ on two prison officers and a number of fatalities.

Castlerea Prison: The visiting committee to Castlerea Prison found overcrowding was still a problem with the remand wing, which has capacity for 20 prisoners, “regularly populated with in excess of 30-35 prisoners on remand”. It said that was in addition to the prison “constantly exceeding the maximum recommended prisoner population”.

Loughan House: The visiting committee reported that 22 inmates absconded from Loughan House during the year with most being returned to custody shortly afterwards.

Arbour Hill Prison: The visiting committee to Arbour Hill expressed concern over the attempted suicide at the facility and recommended active sentence management for sex offenders.

Training Unit Place of Detention: The committee had no complaints about the facility.

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