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12.29 26 Oct 2018


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The second annual report on standards in Ireland's penal system has identified little progress in several key areas.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) says three of the issues identified are the lack of adequate mental health services, the increasing number of women detained in prison and insufficient daily prison staffing levels.

It adds that this is resulting in reduced access to educational provision.

The 'Progress in the Penal System 2018' report is the second in a series, benchmarking progress in Ireland's prison system.

The first report, PIPS 2017, was published in October 2017 and detailed 35 standards being tracked, monitored and assessed over a three-year period.

This covers policy areas including use of community sanctions, prison conditions, regimes, safety and protection and reintegration.

35 standards assessed

Of the 35 standards assessed in this latest report, three were classified as having progressed; four as having regressed and no change was registered in 13 cases.

While 10 standards were classified as 'mixed' - indicating there has been progress towards the standard in some areas, and regress away from it in others.

In five cases, sufficient or adequate data to make a reliable assessment was unavailable.

Among the standards looked at in the new report are imprisonment as last resort, mental healthcare, women who offend and inspections and monitoring.

Imprisonment as last resort has seen a net increase from 79 per 100,000 in May 2017 to 83 per 100,000 in July 2018.

The issue of mental healthcare has seen no change.

The IPRT notes: "Consistently, there are 20-30 prisoners with severe mental illness awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital."

"There is only one 'designated centre' to receive forensic patients and a new facility at Portrane is unlikely to meet projected need."

On women in prison, this saw a mixed result: "While the number of female committals for fines default has decreased, there has been an increase in the daily female population with women's prisons consistently overcrowded in 2018.

"Necessary actions identified in published strategies have not been fully implemented."

Inspections and monitoring was also mixed in its progression.

"Findings are disappointing"

The report says: "Appointment of new Inspector of Prisons is positive but no inspection reports have been published in 2018.

"Legislation to ratify OPCAT promised by end 2018 but no draft legislation published."

Commenting on the report executive director of IPRT, Deirdre Malone, says: "When we launched the inaugural PIPS report last year, we set out a clear vision for the future of Ireland's penal system and committed to measuring progress year-on-year against 35 standards which we believe the State must meet.

"This year's report shows that while some limited progress has been made, the overall findings are disappointing and indicate that the majority of identified areas still need urgent attention."


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