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'Constant and unacceptable level of overcrowding' at Cork prison

In a series of reports, one committee boasted about the lack of suicide attempts at one prison in Dublin.

Image: Prison image via Shutterstock

A REPORT BY the visiting committee at Cork Prison has expressed concern at the levels of overcrowding at the facility which it described as “constant and unacceptable”.

It its report, the committee said that while numbers have decreased in the past year, it is not conductive to active rehabilitation. The committee also criticised the “archaic and Dickensian conditions” in some parts of the prison and said it is unfit for purpose.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to a new prison in Cork, and hope it will resolve the issues of overcrowding, the practice of slopping out, and meet international standards and human rights criteria,” the report said.

The committee also said it was concerned about the housing of mentally ill prisoners which it said were ‘inadequate’.

“A stated core value of the Irish Prison Service is its commitment to human dignity and care and we feel that this is seriously compromised in this regard,” it said.

The report is one of four published today on conditions and facilities in Irish prisons. The committee for Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin noted that staffing levels have fallen to 100 which has “produced sustained and ongoing difficulties for the remaining staff and management”.

Suicide

The Arbour Hill committee made a number of positive remarks in its report and even boasted of the lack of suicide attempts in 2012.

“The committee is pleased to note that there were no suicide attempts this year! [sic]“, it said. “It is particularly noteworthy that Arbour Hill Prison did not have a single incident of self inflicted injury in the course of 2012. This simple stat may say more about the regime and modus operandi of this facility than anything this Committee could possibly say.”

The report did, however, note that there was one occassion in which a prisoner threatened self harm and was put on special observation as a precautionary measure.

The committee also had a lot of praise for the cleanliness and “excellent” quality of food at Arbour Hill.

“The variety, quality and wholesomeness of the food provided is most impressive; not to mention the routine provision of specialist diets to cater for cultural, religious and medical needs,” it said.

Transfers

At Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, the committee noted complaints from a number of prisoners regarding transfers from Dublin that they had not requested. The report said they felt aggrieved as it disrupted contact with family members and put extra pressure on their families to travel to Portlaoise.

“Unfortunately due to the large volume of prisoners in the system and operational constraints due to the refurbishment of Mountjoy and other prisons we are satsified that management at the Midlands Prison are obliged to facilitate these transfers until such time as refurbishment has been completed in other prisons,” it said.

Some prisoners also complained about clothing being misplaced or lost during transfers but in these instances, they were all compensated for lost items.

There was one issue that arose regarding alleged verbal abuse by an officer at Midlands Prison in 2012 but the committee said it was satisfied that the prison dealt with the issue appropriately.

Education

The report from the committee at Shelton Abbey carried details of various educational and employment opportunities made available to prisoners.

Eight offenders gained external employment locally on daily temporary release and another six were employed locally on a part-time or seasonal basis.

14 prisoners took anger management courses and 69 attended guidance and counselling courses. Some 41 people at the prison completed their driver theory test last year and five got their full driving licence.

A total of 24 offenders absconded from Shelton Abbey in 2012.

Read: Ex-prison officer arrested in London media conduct probe>
Read: Family of Gary Douch plead for closure in Mountjoy death probe>

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