The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., has announced that the Separation Unit in Mountjoy Prison has been closed. 

The Minister published a report, on Friday 12th September, by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, entitled ‘An Overview of Mountjoy Prison Campus with particular emphasis on the Separation Unit’. The Inspector, in his report, advised that his investigation of the Separation Unit uncovered deficiencies, bad practice, overcrowding, lack of regimes and services which he considered unacceptable. 

It was clear the inspector that the Separation Unit bore no relation to the main building of Mountjoy Prison which had been modernised to an extremely high standard. The Inspector recommended that the Separation Unit should play no further part in the Irish Prison Service Estate and that the Unit should be closed and the building decommissioned.

Confirming the closure of the Unit Minister Fitzgerald said “In light of the serious issues raised by the Inspector in July, a decision was taken to close the Unit as soon as possible. The Irish Prison Service put a plan in place for the closure of the Unit on a phased basis with the relocation of the prisoners commencing immediately. The number of prisoners accommodated there reduced initially from sixty to forty and then reduced to twelve at the end of August. I can confirm that the remaining prisoners were removed from the Separation Unit on Friday 12 September.”

The Minister again noted the positive comments made by the Inspector regarding the refurbishment of the main building of the original Mountjoy Prison which is being carried out to an extremely high standard while the Medical Unit contains the High Support Unit, which the Inspector asserts would stand scrutiny from any agency. The C and D Divisions of the building formally known as St. Patrick’s Institution have also been renovated to a high standard and now form part of the Mountjoy Prison. The Inspector is satisfied that appropriate structured activity and adequate out of cell time are available to prisoners. There is praise for the staff and management for turning this part of the Campus into a modern prison.

I would like to thank the Inspector again for his work. The Government is committed to ensuring that our prisons conform to the highest national and international standards in terms of physical accommodation and the regimes offered to prisoners in our care. The Irish Prison Service is implementing a broad programme of reform under its 3-Year Strategic Plan which was published in 2012. We have a responsibility to ensure that all persons committed to our custody are accommodated with dignity and respect and when conditions fall below the standards expected of a modern prison system swift action will be taken.”

14 September 2014