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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 3 June, 2020

More than two-thirds of Irish prisoners on 'restricted' regime kept in cells for 21 hours a day, report finds

A new report by the Irish Penal Reform Trust has raised concerns over Ireland’s increasing prison population.

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DOZENS OF IRISH prisoners with severe mental illnesses are constantly awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital due to a lack of mental health services.

A new report from the Irish Penal Reform Trust has raised concerns over the mental health treatment provided to Irish prisoners, the increasing number of women being detained in prison and insufficient daily prison staffing levels.

The report provides an analysis of how Irish prisoners’ human rights have progressed over the last 12 months, and examined prison conditions, regimes, oversight and accountability mechanisms, safety and protection, and prisoners’ reintegration to society.

It found that there has been a net increase in the rate of imprisonment from 79 per 100,000 people in May 2017 to 83 per 100,000 people in July 2018.

The report discovered that while the number of female committals for defaulting on fines has decreased, there has been an increase in the daily female population with women’s prisons “consistently overcrowded” in 2018.

Figures from July also revealed that approximately 13% of the prison population was on a ‘restricted regime’ at the time, with 68.6% of those on 21-hour lock up.

In January, only 23% of the prison population engaged in vocational training and 43% participated in education.

Meanwhile, the report also found that there are constantly 20–30 prisoners with severe mental illness awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital.

It said a new mental health facility in Portrane was unlikely to be sufficient to meet demand.

Commenting on the report, Deirdre Malone of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said the overall findings were “disappointing” and indicated that the majority of areas identified for improvement last year still needed urgent attention.

“With Ireland’s two women’s prisons being the most overcrowded in the State, we are particularly concerned about the increasing number of women being detained,” she said.

Malone called for the issues raised to be tackled through the provision of community-based alternatives to prison for women and a reduction of the capacity of Irish prisons to come in line with available staffing levels.

“It is important to stress that this report is about more than a focus on any individual organisation, it’s about how we, collectively, make decisions about effective policies that ensure prisoners are treated in a humane and decent way,” she added.

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