The Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald TD, today published a report by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, entitled ‘An Overview of Mountjoy Prison Campus with particular emphasis on the Separation Unit’ which was presented to the Minister on 23rd July, 2014.
The Inspector commends 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.
The Inspector’s investigation of the Separation Unit has uncovered deficiencies, bad practice, overcrowding, lack of regimes and services which he considers unacceptable. The Unit bears no relation to the main building of Mountjoy Prison. The Inspector describes prisoners in the Unit as inactive and there is a general air of neglect and decay. On his visits, the Inspector found the Unit to be dirty.
The Inspector recommends 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.
He concludes that with the closing of the Separation Unit, the relocation of 17 year old remands to Oberstown and the opening of the D Division of the main building in Mountjoy Prison in mid 2015 together with the refurbishment of the B Division in the old St. Patrick’s, Mountjoy Prison should in the future stand inspection from any quarter.
Speaking on the publication of this report, Minister Fitzgerald said “I am grateful to the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, for his report and for bringing these matters in relation to the Separation Unit to light. I understand from the Irish Prison Service that many of the issues identified by the Inspector have now been rectified and that as a result of reduced prisoner numbers tension levels have significantly abated.
The Inspector has met with the Irish Prison Service to highlight his concerns and received a response which sets out a short term plan of physical improvements to the Unit and increased activities for prisoners. The Irish Prison Service agrees with the Inspector that the Unit is currently unfit for purpose and intends to close the Unit shortly. A phased closure plan currently being developed by prison management will see all prisoners in the Unit relocated across the prison estate.”
The Inspector is critical of the fact that a small cohort of 17 year old remands is still accommodated in St. Patrick’s Institution and recently wrote to the Minister on the issue. The matter was also raised by the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee with the Irish Prison Service.
Minister Fitzgerald said “One of the Government’s priorities is to remove 17 year old offenders from the adult prison system. The detention of children in St. Patrick’s Institution will end with the provision of more appropriate accommodation and regimes in the new detention facility at Oberstown later this year.
My Department is also taking steps to prepare the General Scheme of a Bill to provide for the complete closing of St Patrick’s Institution.”
The Minister concluded “Finally, I note the Inspector’s concerns that the Training Unit is not being utilised to its potential and look forward to receiving his report on the Training Unit in the coming year. I am sure more can be done and I am confident that the Prison Service will do what is necessary”.
The Inspector’s report is available here http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000234
12 September, 2014