Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (558, 559)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

570 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners who had family visits withdrawn as punishment in 2011. [34861/12]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

571 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of visitors who were excluded from visits or offered a screened visit in 2011; and the current procedures in place for families to make a complaint regarding visits and or to challenge the refusal of a visit. [34862/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 570 and 571 together.

The number of visitors excluded from visits or offered a screened visit in 2011 was 306. Section 36(9) of the Prison Rules makes provision for the Governor, where he or she believes it to be necessary in order to: (a) prevent the entry into the prison of controlled drugs or other prohibited articles or substances, (b) prevent a conspiracy to commit a criminal offence, or (c) otherwise maintain good order and safe and secure custody, may refuse to permit a visit to a prisoner by a person or persons.

Some of our prisons, e.g. Cloverhill and St Patrick's have screened visits facilities as the norm and others, e.g. Cork and Mountjoy may provide "open visits". There is no automatic right to an open visit and the Governor may insist on screened visits on occasions for security reasons. Reasons why screened visits may be applied include previous attempts to retrieve contraband, evidence of drug misuse, previous attempts by the visitor to pass contraband and/or positive indications on the visitor by the drug dogs. These triggers could reasonably lead the Governor to believe there would be a risk in relation to contraband if an open visit was to take place.

Any visitor who is refused a visit or is subject to screened visits has the option of appealing the decision to the Governor of the prison. The Governor ultimately makes the final decision on any visitor access to the prison as referred to above. The number of prisoners who had visits withdrawn as punishment in 2011 was 1,252. However, it is not possible to provide a further breakdown specific to family visits.