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File photo Photocall Ireland

Deep concern expressed by UN at levels of overcrowding in Irish prisons

United Nations Committee against Torture recommends that a mechanism should be astablished to facilitate criminal complaints. It also calls the practice of slopping out “inhumane”.

THE UN COMMITTEE against Torture has expressed “deep concern” at the level of overcrowding in the prison system in Ireland. UNCAT has today published its concluding observations on Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and has provided recommendations on what action the State should take in the coming years.

As well as recommending an inquiry into activities at the Magdalene Laundries, the report notes that while there are efforts to alleviate overcrowding in prisons, it is a serious problem. UNCAT has asked that it be notified of any decisions taken with regard to Thornton Hall prison project, as well as developing a programme of non-custodial sanctions such as community service.

UNCAT also says that the practice of  ”slopping out” is inhuman and degrading. It recommends that all prisoners should be released from their cells to use toilet facilities. The Committee says that it is necessary to “establish and independent and effective complaint and investigation mechanism” for prisoners, something which is being welcomed by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, which says:

The high rate of inter-prisoner violence within the Irish system is highlighted by the Committee as a particular concern and the Committee has issued specific directions to the Government to address the contributing factors such as the availability of drugs, the existence of feuding gangs, lack of purposeful activities, lack of space and poor material conditions; including a call to investigate allegations of racism against Traveller prisoners

Other issues highlighted in the report include, but are not limited to:

  • Concern over budget cuts and the effect on human rights organisations in Ireland
  • A recommendation that measures should be taken to investigate allegations of the State’s involvement in rendition flights at Shannon
  • Concern about the low rate of recognition in the asylum process
  • The running and operation of the Garda Ombudsman Commission; the report expresses concern over the fact that the Garda Siochana is allowed to investigate itself
  • The implementation of the recommendations of the Ryan Report; the report asks that a timeframe for the implementation be provided
  • The policy of detaining 16 and 17-year-old boys at St.Patrick’s institution is highlighted as inappropriate as it is a prison, rather than a care facility designed for children
  • UNCAT says it is “gravely concerned” that corporal punishment in the home is not prohibited

Read more: UN Committee against Torture recommends an inquiry into Magdalene Laundries>

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