Committee on torture blasts ‘degrading’ Irish prison conditions

PRISONERS using bottles and plastic bags to urinate and defecate in front of each other in cramped cells are among the “degrading” and “debasing” conditions exposed by an international torture committee.

Committee on torture blasts ‘degrading’ Irish prison conditions

A Council of Europe report on Ireland said 25% of the prison population — almost 1,000 people — “slopped out” every day because of a lack of toilet facilities.

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) accused prison authorities of being “reluctant to take action” against staff accused of mistreating inmates despite supporting evidence.

The CPT 2010 report — over three years on from its last audit — said it had “real concerns as to the safe and humane treatment of prisoners” in older prisons, due to worsening overcrowding and poor conditions.

Its findings include:

* 309 prisoners are crammed into cells at Cork Prison designed for 146, with no in-cell sanitation. In one cell three prisoners on protection, spending up to 23 hours locked up, did not have a chamber pot and shared a bottle to urinate and a plastic bag to defecate.

Many prisoners are allowed just one shower or change of underwear a week.

* Mountjoy “remains unsafe for prisoners and prison staff”, with 632 men packed into a space for a maximum of 540. It said “stabbings, slashings and assaults with various objects are an almost daily occurrence.”

* In E block in Portlaoise Prison, inmates, if they have to defecate at night, are likely “to wrap up the faeces in a parcel and sometimes throw it out of the window”.

The report dramatically suggests that drug security checks on staff going into Mountjoy are not as rigorous as they are for visitors.

The committee highlights four specific allegations of assault on prisoners by staff, where there was supporting evidence, and criticised the investigations that followed.

The inspectors also examined Garda stations and psychiatric hospitals. It said the majority of people they met had no complaints about their time in garda custody, but said there was a “persistence of allegations” of ill-treatment.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust said the report was the most critical yet and urged political parties to address what they said was a “national disgrace”.

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