Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Report brands prisons 'shameful'

A human rights watchdog found appalling standards in the country's jails
A human rights watchdog found appalling standards in the country's jails

A damning inspection of Irish prisons by Europe's anti-torture watchdog has exposed the country to international shame, campaigners have warned.

Leading human rights chiefs found appalling standards in crisis-hit jails from chronic overcrowding to drug abuse, inadequate mental health care, slopping out and daily violence.

The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment also reported a number of alleged assaults on inmates by prison officers.

Liam Herrick, executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, called on all election candidates to commit to radical reform of the prison system.

"This report shows a litany of broken commitments and inaction in relation to chronic problems over the past two decades," he said. "There has been a failure of leadership to address the problems within our prisons.

"The bottom line is that prisoners and the general public are left with a prison system that is unacceptable and which has exposed Ireland to international shame."

The European torture watchdog visited prisons, Garda stations and psychiatric units from January 25 to February 5 last year when the prison population was about 4,100 - the system capacity. There were 4,541 people in jail last month.

The report includes complaints from an inmate allegedly beaten by staff in Mountjoy, Travellers racially taunted and assaulted in Cork prison, and other prisoners attacked after refusing to be X-ray-searched or for defecating in a cell after being refused a toilet. Medical reports have been included in all cases.

Mark Kelly, Irish Council for Civil Liberties director, said the report makes clear that 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," Mr Kelly said.

The inspectors highlighted Cork, Mountjoy and the female prison in Limerick for major criticism.

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