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51 inmates in Irish prisons still 'slopping out' despite government pledge to end practice by this year

The total figure is a decrease from 465 people in January 2014.

Midlands Prison Portlaoise, where some prisoners continue to 'slop out'
Midlands Prison Portlaoise, where some prisoners continue to 'slop out'
Image: RollingNews.ie

DOZENS OF PRISONERS in Ireland continue to ‘slop out’, despite a previous promise by the government to end the practice by this year.

Figures released by Justice Minister Helen McEntee in response to a Parliamentary Question last month show that 51 inmates in the Irish prison system are still ‘slopping out’.

Twenty of the inmates are based in Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, while 31 are housed in Limerick Prison, representing approximately 1% of the Irish prison population.

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to examine the level of overcrowding, medical treatment and access to resources in jails.

McEntee said the total figure is a decrease from 465 people in January 2014, and that the drop has been helped by the installation of in-cell sanitation at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin and the opening of a new prison in Cork in 2016.

The practice occurs when prisoners are forced to manually empty human waste from their cells.

In 2017, former Minister of State at the Department of Justice David Stanton told a United Nations Expert Committee on Torture that the government would completely eliminate the practice by this year.

The practice has been condemned as far back as 1993 by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture, as well as in a number of subsequent reports, including by the State Inspector of Prisons.

Several former prisoners have been awarded thousands of Euro in damages by the State as a result of having to ‘slop out’, after taking court cases over a violation of their rights.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust criticised the ongoing practice as “inhumane and degrading”, saying it raised particular health concerns during a pandemic.

The trust’s executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide told TheJournal.ie that it was necessary to ensure that prisoners have access to decent sanitary conditions and can practice social distancing at all times.

“The abolition of ‘slopping out’ in prisons in Ireland is long called for, long promised and long overdue,” she said.

The State has significantly reduced the numbers slopping out since 2011 through capital investment, and we welcome this.

“However, progress on finally ending this practice cannot be delayed further, particularly in light of Covid-19.”

Ní Chinnéide called for prisoner numbers to be reduced across the country through alternatives to custody and early release schemes, and for and for unfit cells to be closed.

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“Only a small number of men in prison are slopping out today but this does not make it any less degrading for the prisoners and for the staff who must oversee it,” she added.

“This practice must be abolished completely and urgently.”

In her parliamentary response, McEntee said that a feasibility study on improving cells in part of Midlands Prison where ‘slopping out’ still occurs is being prepared, noting that it would lead to a decision on a solution to provide in-cell sanitation for prisoners there.

She also explained that the construction of new facilities in Limerick was underway, which would lead to the elimination of ‘slopping out’ there.

However, the minister added that although the projected completion date for this work was the final quarter of next year, the precise date was the subject of discussions with the contractor involved due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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