Review of Prison Visiting Committees

 

CONSULTATION IS CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS

HAVE YOUR SAY

We carry out public consultations because it is important that we hear from the general public. These opinions and ideas are considered as part of the work we are undertaking in the Department of Justice.

 

WHY ARE WE UNDERTAKING THIS CONSULTATION?

As part of its mission to build stronger and safer communities, the 2020 Programme for Government Our Shared Future commits to reviewing the existing functions, powers, appointment procedures, and reporting processes for Prison Visiting Committees (PVCs).

The Department undertook to complete this action under the Justice Strategy 2021-2023.

Under the Justice Plan 2021, the Department completed the finalising of the terms of reference for this review, in line with Action 165.

These terms of reference for the review are:

  1. To review the existing functions, powers, appointment procedures and reporting processes for prison visiting committees.
  2. To consult with relevant stakeholders as required.
  3. To complete and report on the review to recommend a preferred policy option for consideration by Government.

Now, under Action 114 of the Justice Plan 2022, the Department is to conducting a consultation with relevant stakeholders on this matter, with a view to preparing a report and recommendation to Government by the end of 2022.

 

WHAT ARE PRISON VISITING COMMITTEES?

The function of Prison Visiting Committees is to visit at frequent intervals the prison to which they are appointed and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. They report to the Minister for Justice any abuses observed or found by them in the prison and any repairs which they think may be urgently needed. The Visiting Committee members have free access either collectively or individually to every part of their prison.

At present, the members of each of the PVCs of the twelve prisons/places of detention are appointed by the Minister for Justice under the Prison (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 as applied by section 4 of the Prisons Act 1970. Rules relating to the specific functions and operation of such Committees are set out in the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order 1925, and the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order 1972.

 

WHAT IS THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW?

The review of PVCs is to examine their existing functions, powers, appointment procedures, and reporting processes.

On this matter, following initial examination of the matter, the Department is of the opinion at present that PVCs should remain, as they represent an important part of the penal system in the State. To this end, the review seeks to identify gaps and opportunities to bring PVCs in line with the norms and expectations of such a body operating today, and to ensure PVC members are adequately equipped, supported, and empowered to do their important work.

Further, having signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2007, the State continues to work towards full ratification. As part of this, a targeted and thorough review of the processes and operations of PVCs is also important for the State to achieve OPCAT compliance.

This review should look to ensure greater efficiency and transparency in the appointment, administration, and reporting of PVCs, enhance the members’ understanding of their roles and powers within the PVC, and broaden knowledge and awareness of their function and availability amongst the prison population and community.

 

HOW DO I PARTICIPATE IN THIS CONSULTATION/ SURVEY?

CONSULTATION IS CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS

The aim of this consultation survey is to seek the opinions of stakeholders to feed into the development of a policy review and a report on potential changes to the functions, powers, appointment procedures, and reporting processes of PVCs.  

This survey should take about 10-15 minutes to complete depending on your responses.

Any further queries about this consultation process can be submitted to the following contact address pvcconsultation@justice.ie

As long as you do not include personal information in your responses they are anonymous and any reporting shall be done at an aggregated level.

Please note, as it falls within the Department’s consultation process, answers to this questionnaire may be subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2014

 

WHAT IS THE DEADLINE?

The deadline for completion of the survey has been extended to 22 August 2022.