148. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to give effect to the decision by his predecessor to combine the role of the Inspector of Prisons with that of the Office of the Ombudsman; and the timescale concerned. [4677/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): A prisoner complaints system was introduced in November 2012 based on a model recommended by the late Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly. The system is categorised according to the nature and seriousness of the complaint and ranges from the most serious 'Category A' complaint through to a 'Category F' complaint.
The late Judge Reilly, who was independent of Government in his post of Inspector, carried out a review of this system in June 2016 and made a number of recommendations. This report entitled “Review, Evaluation and Analysis of the Operation of the present Irish Prison Service Complaints Procedure” is available on my Department's website - www.justice.ie.
Two of the key recommendations in the Inspector's report are that the complaints category system above be simplified and that prisoners’ complaints should be subject to review by the Ombudsman, who would also be able to deal with complaints directly in the case of undue delay. The recommendations in the report were accepted and my officials and officials from the Irish Prison Service have been in advanced discussions with the Ombudsman's office with the aim of establishing an effective complaints system for prisoners.
In these discussions with the Ombudsman, it has been agreed that his engagement with the process will begin after the new complaints procedure has been introduced and bedded down as an internal IPS process in the first instance. This IPS process requires administrative supports such as additional personnel, changes to the Prison Rules, drafting of new policy documents and a new ICT system. Work is well advanced on all of these measures and the IPS expect to introduce the new prisoner complaints system by the third quarter of 2019.