YESTERDAY, NEW YORK became the largest prison system in the US to ban the use of solitary confinement for under-18s.
The state also agreed to widespread reform of the system, including banning its use for pregnant inmates and limiting the time that developmentally disabled inmates can spend in solitary.
Here in Ireland, similar changes have seen the rate of use of what the Irish Prison Service calls “Restricted Regimes” fall dramatically.
In October, there were 263 inmates on the regimes, but that has dropped to 228 in January.
201 of those are there for protection reasons, with 183 of these being at the person’s own request.
17 were restricted due to order concerns and five due to discipline.
In fact, since the commencement of a census in Irish prisons last year, the number of prisoners on 22- and 23-hour lockup has fallen by 161 prisoners to 50, a fall of 76%.
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Services says that they are aiming to have every prisoner out of their cell for at least three hours.
“The restriction of a prisoner’s regime can occur due to a number of factors including, the protection of vulnerable prisoners.
“A prisoner may, either at his/her own request or when the Governor considers it necessary, in so far as is practicable and subject to the maintenance and good order and safe and secure custody, be kept separate from other prisoners who are reasonably likely to cause significant harm to him/her.”
The spokesperson added that the use of restriction shows a commitment to safety.
The fact that prisoners seeking protection are immediately separated from the general population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat, clearly demonstrates the commitment of the Irish Prison Service to ensure their safety and security.
The status of each prisoner on restricted regime within the prison system is regularly reviewed. If possible, prisoners can be transferred to other institutions where a restricted regime would not be necessary.”