The majority of prisons met international standards, but some failed to meet prisoners’ basic hygiene needs.
Physical Conditions: As of October 10, prisons overall had fewer inmates than the official capacity of the system, although five facilities exceeded capacity.
In 2016 there were nine reported deaths in the prison system.
At times authorities held detainees awaiting trial and detained immigrants in the same facilities as convicts. On March 30, the minister for children and youth affairs ended the sentencing of children to prison. Since that date courts commit children up to age 17 to the Children’s Detention Center at Oberstown. As of September 19, no juveniles were in the custody of the Irish Prison Service.
In November 2016 the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, an independent statutory body, released assessments of the prisoner complaints procedures and health care. The office found significant deficiencies related to the operation of the prisoner complaints procedures, notably that there was no external, independent appeal process. One of the key recommendations in the inspectors’ report was that prisoners’ complaints should be subject to review by the Office of the Ombudsman, who would also be able to deal with complaints directly in case of undue delay.
An August report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA--a government-funded agency that monitors the safety and quality of health care) highlighted shortcomings at the Oberstown facility. It found some residents were forced to spend a week or longer isolated from their peers and without access to fresh air. It also noted that fire safety policy was not fully implemented despite being identified by an HIQA inspection in 2015.
In June a security breach at Oberstown resulted in damage to the facility, physical threats to personnel, and the escape of two youths from the facility. Both youths were recovered and returned within one week.
A small number of prisoners in older facilities continued to lack sanitary facilities in their cells and had to use chamber pots in a practice known as “slopping out,” 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.
Administration: The inspector of prisons has oversight of the complaints system. Prisoners can submit complaints about their treatment to the prison service. IHREC’s Human Rights Committee expressed concern in September in their Submission to UN Human Rights Committee that complaint procedures did not provide for a fully independent system to deal with all serious complaints. An August 2016 report by the inspector of prisons said that while the overall complaints system was reliable, it was lacking in several areas due to the failure of employees to observe the agreed protocol, a lack of independent oversight, and a general absence of accountability.
Independent Monitoring: The Office of the Inspector of Prisons, an independent statutory body, conducted multiple inspections and independent reviews of detention facilities and methods. Nongovernmental organizations (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: On March 30, the minister for children and youth affairs ended the sentencing of children to prison. On April 7, the minister of justice and equality closed the St. Patrick’s Detention Center for Children, a facility with a history of violating detainee rights.