I will pursue this subject vigorously if elected

Irish prisons ‘degrading and dangerous’

Updated: 18:47, Thursday, 10 February 2011

Europe’s leading human rights organisation has found evidence of degrading, dangerous and hazardous conditions in many Irish prisons.

Mountjoy – Report says assaults happen on an almost daily basis

Morning Ireland: Report highlights degrading conditions in Irish prisons

Europe’s leading human rights organisation has found evidence of degrading, dangerous and hazardous conditions both for prisoners and staff in a large number of Ireland’s prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

The Strasbourg-based Committee for the Prevention of Torture highlighted a range of problems relating to violence and drug use, as well as a lack of training for personnel.

The Council of Europe, a 47-country organisation promoting democracy and human rights, oversees the committee.

In January and February last year, the committee sent a nine-person delegation to investigate conditions at eight garda stations, six prisons and four hospitals relating to mental health or disabilities.

The delegation found a range of serious problems from overcrowding to drug misuse to gang-related violence within prisons.

The report speaks of Mountjoy Prison having a drug-fuelled gang culture where stabbings, slashings and assaults happen on an almost daily basis.

Conditions in Cork Prison were described as degrading and a health hazard, while the committee urged an end to the continued practice of slopping out at Portlaoise Prison.

The delegation also expressed deep concern at the use of special observation cells, especially due to temperatures and the clothing prisoners were given to wear.

Concern too was expressed at the level of violence between patients and towards staff at both St Brendan’s and St Ita’s psychiatric hospitals.

The Government has already provided a detailed response to the report and its various recommendations.

It referred to a dramatic increase in the prison population from over 3,000 at the time of the last committee visit in 2006 to over 5,000 prisoners now.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust said candidates in the election should ‘take heed of this national disgrace and commit to rectifying the many human rights issues identified in the report’.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has called for the incoming government to act swiftly to implement the report’s recommendations.