Report on Ireland’s penal system finds ‘disappointing’ progress in key areas

Report on Ireland's penal system finds 'disappointing' progress in key areas

Deirdre Malone

A new report on Ireland’s prisons has identified a lack of adequate mental health services, an increasing number of women being detained in prison, and insufficient daily prison staffing levels, resulting in reduced access to educational provision.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), publishing the Progress in the Penal System 2018 report, said its overall findings are “disappointing”.

The report is the second of three annual reports tracking Ireland’s progress in meeting human rights obligations in prisons against 35 standards covering a wide range of penal policy areas.

Deirdre Malone, executive director of the IPRT, said: “When we launched the inaugural PIPS report last year, we set out a clear vision for the future of Ireland’s penal system and committed to measuring progress year-on-year against 35 standards which we believe the State must meet.

“This year’s report shows that while some limited progress has been made, the overall findings are disappointing and indicate that the majority of identified areas still need urgent attention.”

Of the 35 standards assessed, three were classified as having progressed; four as having regressed; no change was registered in 13 cases; 10 standards were classified as ‘mixed’, indicating that there has been progress towards the standard in some areas and regress away from it in others; while in five cases sufficient or adequate data to make a reliable assessment of progress towards the standard was unavailable.

Ms Malone said the IPRT is “particularly concerned about the increasing number of women being detained” in light of the consistent overcrowding of women’s prisons.

She added: “We are also concerned about staffing issues in general, which have resulted in the closure of schools and workshops, impacting on the daily regimes of prisoners; and about the number of people with severe mental health illnesses presenting in our prison system.

“These issues must be tackled through provision of community-based alternatives to prison for women; through reducing the capacity of each prison in line with available staffing levels; and through ring-fencing a sufficient number of spaces for prisoners in the new national forensic mental health facility in Portrane.”

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