New framework for Irish prison inspections published

Patricia Gilheaney
Patricia Gilheaney

A new framework for the inspection of Irish prisons has been published by the Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney.

The new framework, which has been welcomed by penal rights campaigners, draws upon relevant international human rights standards, in particular the preventive approach, and standards set by the Optional Protocol to the United Nations.

It was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in Ireland and abroad, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, NGOs, the Council of Europe, academics and other experts.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “I know the Inspectorate is committed to undertaking a comprehensive and systemic programme of inspections of Ireland’s prisons - in an independent, transparent manner with a focus on improvement and prevention and I very much welcome and support this work.

“A key requirement of this commitment is the development of an Inspection Framework, and – with this in mind - I am delighted to launch this framework today.”

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), said: “Independent inspections play a critical role in preventing torture and ill-treatment in prisons, and encouraging good practice. This rights-led framework will play an important role in improving accountability in Ireland’s prison system and safeguarding the rights of thousands of men and women each year.

“It is essential that a programme of prison inspections is now commenced. There have been no published inspection reports for any closed prison in Ireland since 2014, and half of Ireland’s prisons have not been subject to a published inspection in 12 years or more. This is unacceptable by any measure.”

She added: “There are two actions that should be taken now. Government must demonstrate that it is serious about preventing torture and ill-treatment in Ireland through meeting its commitment to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture by end 2021, and the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill needs to be progressed and the independence of the Inspectorate of Prisons strengthened in law and resources.

“While the Irish Prison Service is to be commended for keeping the people in its custody largely free from COVID-19, and for introducing measures to mitigate against harsh restrictions, we simply cannot assess whether minimum human rights standards have been met in the absence of independent inspection reports.”

Tags: Prisons

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