Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Concern for elderly in jail report

Justice Minister Alan Shatter says overall Arbour Hill Prison is a 'good example' of how things should be done

Concerns have been raised over support given to elderly prisoners in a Dublin jail.

Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly found some inmates with mobility and sight problems at Arbour Hill Prison near Heuston Station were not getting the help they needed.

"I have witnessed a blind man trying to take his daily exercise in the yard with no other aid than his white stick," wrote Mr Reilly in a newly-published inspection report. "I have witnessed another prisoner trying to get around his cell and the immediate space outside his door with a Zimmer frame."

Mr Reilly added that these problems are exacerbated by a slight overcrowding in the medium-security prison. As of December 2011, 148 prisoners were accommodated at Arbour Hill, despite there being adequate room for only 131. In December 2010, 29 prisoners were aged over 60, with eight over 70.

"A significant number of this elderly group are no longer well enough to engage in the programmes available as outlined in this report," Mr Reilly went on.

He said some of these health issues, which include trouble walking and cognitive problems, prevent inmates from getting on with their daily routine. "For many, managing their daily tasks is only achieved with the assistance of fellow prisoners," the prison inspector added.

Mr Reilly said the Irish Prison Service is likely to announce plans to cap prison numbers at Arbour Hill at 131. Despite voicing concerns about overcrowding and support to the elderly, Mr Reilly gave an overall positive report, describing Arbour Hill as well-run and praising the help it gives to inmates working towards moving back into society.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who received a copy of the report, praised the prison governor and staff for their work.

"Arbour Hill Prison is a good example of how things should be done" said Mr Shatter. "I am particularly pleased to note that it is a well- run prison which is to the credit of everyone involved."

He confirmed that a specific strategy for older prisoners will be outlined in the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2012 to 2014.

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