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Prison Service

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 22 November 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Ceisteanna (420, 421, 422, 423)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

448 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to eradicate slopping out of human waste in prisons here as a priority issue and set targets to meet this obligation; and his plans to minimise this in the interim. [35690/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to the elimination of slopping out in all prisons and places of detention. The Programme for Government includes the objective to provide in-cell sanitation to all prisons, and in so far as resources permit, to upgrade prison facilities where possible. 72% of prisoner accommodation has in-cell sanitation at present. This will rise to approximately 80% when the extension currently under construction in the Midlands Prison is opened in 2012.

A refurbishment project in the C-wing at Mountjoy Prison is nearing completion and will result in all cells on that wing having in-cell sanitation. Depending on the findings of a post project appraisal, the Irish Prison Service will consider installing in-cell sanitation facilities in the remaining cells in Mountjoy and indeed to other facilities that do not have in-cell sanitation. I am committed to ending the practice of slopping out within the prison system, however, any project to provide in-cell sanitation to the remaining wings in Mountjoy or indeed in any other facility will, of course, be subject to the availability of financial resources.

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

449 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for the Irish Prison Service to introduce standard risk assessment procedures for all new prisoners upon admission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35691/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

At present, all prisoners in this jurisdiction undergo a form of assessment on committal which includes an interview by a Governor and Nursing Officer along with a Doctor's assessment within 24 hours of committal. I have asked my officials to examine the possibility of introducing formal risk assessment procedures and to report their findings in the near future.

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

450 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for the use of safety observation cells and close supervision cells in prisons; his further plans to introduce guidelines setting out clear limits on the length of time prisoners can be held and the provision of services that must be available, and adequate record keeping detailing the usage of safety observation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35692/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

At present the use of special observation cells is governed by rule 64 of the Prison Rules 2007 (S.I. no. 252). The original direction from the Governor for a person to be accommodated in such a cell must be for a period not exceeding 24 hours. Following consultation with the prison doctor, the Governor may direct that the period be extended for four further periods none of which may exceed 24 hours. Any extension beyond these periods requires a written report to be submitted to the Director General explaining the need for such an extension and written authorisation from him.

It is my intention to bring forward amendments to the Prison Rules 2007 which will draw a clear distinction between special safety observation cells to be used for medical reasons only and close supervision cells which are used based on operational management decisions. The proposed amendments will also contain time limits for the use of these cells and the maintaining of appropriate records for such use in all prisons.

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

451 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to establish an independent prison complaints system and prisoner ombudsman. [35693/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 provides for a visiting committee to be constituted for every prison in the State and one of the statutory duties of such committees is to hear any complaints which may be made to them by a prisoner. Under new legislation to be prepared, I intend to make Visiting Committees more effective while they continue their role. The arrangements for membership of the Committees will be changed and a link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons.

There are also procedures within the Irish Prison Service for the investigation of complaints by prisoners. I am not satisfied that the existing IPS procedures are sufficiently robust and independent of the local staff to meet best practice for the investigation of serious complaints. It is my intention to bring forward amendments to the Prison Rules 2007 which will introduce an independent element to the investigation. I have recently asked the Inspector of Prisons to give consideration to this matter and to advise me as to the most appropriate approach to be taken in an Irish context so as to ensure compliance with best practice. The Inspector's views will then be taken into account in relation to the framing of the amended Rules in this regard.

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