Minister Shatter T.D. publishes the reports of the Cloverhill Prison, Cork Prison, Mountjoy Prison and Wheatfield Prison Visiting Committees

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter T.D. today published the reports of the Cloverhill Prison, Cork Prison, Mountjoy Prison and Wheatfield Prison Visiting Committees.

Welcoming the publication of the reports, the Minister said "I am pleased to note the Committee's commendation of prison staff in general and of food standards in Cloverhill Prison.' The Minister acknowledged the concerns raised by the Committees in relation to overcrowding, accommodation and slopping out and stated that, "Ireland has experienced a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years and the problem of prison overcrowding therefore remains a challenging issue which unfortunately cannot be resolved overnight. There are 300 new prison places in the Midlands Prison which will be operational by the end of the year. I am continuing to pursue alternatives to custody where they are appropriate and to address the issue of the lack of in cell sanitation in prisons.  In that regard, I recently asked the Irish Prison Service to prepare plans for the building of a new prison in Cork on the existing prison car park site. This together with the development in the Midlands Prison will address overcrowding and accommodation issues in Cork Prison".

The Minister also said "I visited Mountjoy Prison in March to inspect the refurbished C Division. The refurbished accommodation will provide improved physical conditions for prisoners with the introduction of in cell sanitation in all cells on the C Division. A similar renovation of the B Division will commence shortly and when completed will bring to 317 the number of cells in Mountjoy Prison having in cell sanitation by the end of this year." The renovation of C Division also includes a new dedicated Drug Free Area which will be operational in the coming months. The intention of the Irish Prison Service is that by the end of 2012 all closed prisons will have dedicated Drug Free Areas which will cater for prisoners who are drug free, have illicit drug free status and/or are stable on methadone.

In response to the particular issues raised by the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee regarding drugs, the Minister has been advised by the Irish Prison Service that a number of security initiatives have been introduced which have significantly reduced the availability of contraband into the prison. While noting the criticism of the medical treatment provided to prisoners, the Minister has been advised by the Prison Service that all prisoners are seen by a nurse on committal and by a doctor within 24 hours. Prisoners also have daily access to a General Practitioner following assessment by the nursing staff. Furthermore, dental treatment is not determined by length of sentence but is based on clinical need as determined by the Dentist.

In terms of the issues raised by the Cloverhill Prison Visiting Committee in relation to language difficulties for foreign prisoners, the Irish Prison Service has advised the Minister that while there is no specific language training for staff, every effort is made to assist prisoners with any language difficulties which may arise. In terms of mobile phone blocking, the Irish Prison Service has advised that it is now looking at options in relation to mobile phone detection. Finally, it is intended that a Drug Free Unit will be operational in Cloverhill Prison by the end of June.

The reports, along with previous reports, are available on the Department's website

20 April 2012