While the majority of prisons met international standards, some of those that did not were upgraded during the year to meet prisoners’ basic hygiene needs.
Physical Conditions: The prison population declined slightly in 2012, averaging 4,318 inmates a day. Concerns remained that some prisons exceeded their capacity.
At times authorities held detainees awaiting trial in the same facilities as convicts. In 2012 the prison population was 3.5 percent women, and 0.5 percent juveniles (below the age of 18). There were some separate prisons for women as well as separate wings in other facilities.
Prisoners in some older facilities continued to have no sanitary facilities in their cells and had to use chamber pots in a process known as “slopping out,” which humanitarian organizations referred to as inhumane treatment.
The head of the Prison Service criticized the current use of solitary confinement as a method of keeping prisoners out of the general prison population for their own protection. Authorities kept approximately 25 percent of all prisoners in solitary confinement 23-hours a day because there was no other method for protecting them.
Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners was adequate. Prisoners had access to visitors and religious observance, and they could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Government authorities investigated credible allegations of inhumane conditions. In recent years the country took advantage of early release programs to address prison overcrowding.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits and monitoring by independent human rights observers and maintained an open invitation for visits from UN special rapporteurs. The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) reported that the prison inspector function was highly effective. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited the country’s police detention centers, prisons, and mental institutions in 2010 and published a favorable report that year.
Improvements: Acknowledging problems with overcrowding and inadequate sanitation in some of its 14 institutions, the Prison Service initiated the three- year Strategic Plan 2012-2015 and committed itself to undertake capital projects to replace outdated accommodations and facilities, reduce or eliminate chronic overcrowding in the prisons, and improve sanitary conditions. By year’s end three of the four wings of Mountjoy Prison had been refurbished to include in-cell sanitation. A new wing in the Midlands Prison was completed, potentially providing 300 additional prison places.
The situation at St. Patrick’s, a facility for holding 16- and 17-year-old male prisoners, improved significantly after the April 2012 announcement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald of an infusion of 50 million euros ($67.5 million) in additional funding over three years to end the detention of children in St. Patrick’s. As of May 2012 authorities detained all newly remanded or sentenced 16-year-olds in the children’s detention facilities at Oberstown.
The government also instituted a number of improvements at St. Patrick’s, including new management structures, enhanced oversight, new complaints investigation procedures, and guidelines for the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.