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Torture watchdog slams conditions in Irish prisons

The report from a Council of Europe committee heavily criticises conditions in some of the country’s major prisons.

Mountjoy prison is among those criticised in the report
Mountjoy prison is among those criticised in the report
Image: Haydn West/PA Archive/Press Association Images

CONDITIONS IN IRISH prisons have been described as “inhumane and degrading” following a damning report by a European Committee on human rights.

The report outlines allegations of serious assaults on inmates by prison officers and says that 25 per cent of the prison population in the Republic “slopped out” everyday – using bottles and plastic bags to relieve themselves in front of each other in cramped cells.

The report was conducted by the Council of Europe’s anti-torture watchdog, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading  Treatment or Punishment (CPT), which visited Ireland between the 25 January and 5 February last year.

The committee investigated detention conditions in prisons, Garda stations and the country’s psychiatric institutions.  The report raises key concerns about the situation in older prisons due to worsening overcrowding and poor conditions.

The CPT outlined concerns about healthcare provisions at Cork, Midlands and Mountjoy Prisons including the administration of methadone and the prescription of medication.

The CPT also criticises the use of special observation cells and encouraged prison authorities to continue improving access to psychiatric care in prisons.

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More specifically, among the most shocking findings was the fact that stabbings and attacks were an almost daily occurrence in Mountjoy prison, where 632 men are packed into a space for a maximum of 540. The jail is described as “unsafe for prisoners and prison staff”and is characterised by violence, gangs and drugs.

In response to the report, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has called for the incoming government to take urgent action in implementing the changes recommended by the CPT.

Its director Mark Kelly said:

This report makes clear that conditions in our prisons remain inhumane and degrading. Fair trial safeguards have been weakened and people in psychiatric care are still being kept in insalubrious and unsafe conditions.

The ICCL calls upon the incoming Government to take urgent action to implement recommendations by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture which have been ignored for far too long.

After a full Dáil debate on the Committee’s findings, an inter-departmental group must be given specific responsibility to ensure that the CPT’s recommendations are implemented within a clear timeframe.

Read the full Council of Europe report here >

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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