THE CIRCULAR

Irish prison regimes have worsened, report warns

IPRT report observed the Irish prison regimes have worsened over the last five years, and warns about the impact of the limited out-of-cell time.

One in four prisoners were subject to 24 hours lock-up in Ireland Penal Service, according to the Prison Population Census Report 2022. According to the report, an increase of 30pc was registered and outlined severe concerns about restricted regimes inside prison facilities, and its direct impact on mental health issues. 

Since 2017, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has observed regression in certain areas of the prison system, mainly regarding the limited out-of-cell time of certain groups. In addition to the lack of public data available to help understand the Irish court’s choice of the deprivation of liberty regime as the primary resource instead of alternative sanctions.  

In many countries, such as Ireland, prison is the first resource instead of alternative regimes directly impacts the penal population, security and protection of prisoners, mental health, and the social harms and costs of the imprisonment to the prisoner and their family. 

Image by Rodnae from Pixabay

The Mental Health Commission report on Access to Mental Health Service for People in the Criminal Justice System, published in 2021, shows that 66pc of the general population in prison suffer from a personality disorder, followed by depression and anxiety, 45pc. “Acutely disturbed patients with mental illness in prison are often confined to isolation cells; this has no therapeutic benefit for the mentally ill patient,” says the Commission report.  

In July 2020, Ireland Penal Service had 3,824 people in custody, 78pc of committals were less than 12 months that could be given alternative sentences under Criminal Justice Act 2011. The Irish Penal Reform Trust report stated that the transparency of publicly-available data on the court decisions is essential to make the penal system more accountable for properly enforcing human and functional rights in the prison service.

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