The majority of prisons met international standards, but some continued to fail to meet prisoners’ basic hygiene needs.
Physical Conditions: As of October 16, there were fewer prisoners than the official capacity of the system as a whole, although some individual facilities, especially those for women, exceeded capacity. In 2014 there were eight reported deaths in the prison system.
At times authorities held detainees awaiting trial and detained immigrants in the same facilities as convicts. Authorities placed most juveniles in child-detention schools, but at any one time, they held approximately 15-20 juveniles who were 17 years old in an adult prison at Wheatfield Place of Detention and a small number in St. Patrick’s Institution.
The inspector of prisons expressed concern that a minority of prison officers abuse their authority by bullying, intimidating, acting to ensure the discomfiture of prisoners, and taking other measures to disparage prisoners under their control. There was also growing concern about prisoner-on-prisoner violence, with ethnic minorities especially vulnerable. In November the Office of the Inspector of Prisons released an assessment of the culture within the Prison Service that highlighted the negative culture within the penal system and the inability of prison leadership to take effective, positive, and corrective steps to address deficiencies. Prisoners in some older facilities continued to lack sanitary facilities in their cells and had to use chamber pots, which national and international humanitarian organizations referred to as inhuman treatment. Human rights groups continued to criticize understaffing and poor working conditions at the Central Mental Health Hospital in Dundrum, the country’s only secure mental health facility.
In its 2014 report, the CPT criticized conditions in a number of individual prisons. For example, at the Midlands Prison certain inmates were held apart for their own protection (e.g., to protect them against prison gangs or from aggressive behavior by other prisoners), and were held two to a cell in cells designed to hold one person. The cells were in poor condition, with leaking sinks, broken windows, and no hot water. In the same Midlands Prison, health services were disorganized, and in Limerick Prison, access to health care appeared to be inadequate.
Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners was generally adequate, but the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were critical that they were not always sufficiently detailed. In his report on deaths of prisoners in custody or on temporary release, the inspector of prisons stated that in some instances the management structure did not exist or was deficient, relevant standard operating procedures or management’s orders were not followed, and proper records were not adequately maintained. In its November report, the CPT noted the lack in the Cloverhill Prison of a mechanism for automatic reporting by prison doctors of prisoner injuries, which the CPT stated would help prevent abuse by prison officials.
Prisoners can make complaints about their treatment to the Prison Service; the inspector of prisons has oversight of the complaints system. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s (IHREC) Human Rights Committee expressed concern that the complaint mechanism does not provide for a fully independent system for dealing with every serious prisoner complaint.
Independent Monitoring: The Office of the Inspector of Prisons, a statutory, independent office, conducted multiple inspections and independent reviews of detention facilities and methods. The Irish Human Rights Commission and NGOs reported that the prison inspector function was effective.
The government permitted visits and monitoring by independent human rights observers and maintained an open invitation for visits from UN special rapporteurs.
Improvements: Improvements continued as a part of a three-year strategic plan for 2012-15 that included a number of capital projects. Renovation of the last wing of the Mountjoy Prison was completed and the prison was awaiting occupation. The number of prisoners using chamber pots dropped from 1,003 to 312. In the report on the 2014 visit of its mission, the CPT noted steps authorities had taken since its 2010 visit to reduce overcrowding “significantly” by opening new facilities and reducing the number of persons detained in several others.