"[C]onditions in some of our prisons may expose the State to significant reputational, legal and financial risk": Thornton Hall Review Group Report

The Report of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group was published by the Minister for Justice and Equality on Thursday of last week, July 28 2011. The Group was established by the Minister, Alan Shatter T.D., in early April 2011 with specific terms of reference which, basically, provided for a review of the need for new prison accommodation in the jurisdiction and consideration of the future of the Thornton Hall prison project. The Review Group’s report is interesting from a number of perspectives. The recommendations relating directly to the future of the Thornton Hall prison project are more than noteworthy; observations and recommendations made regarding other aspects of the prison system and the state of the prison estate in Ireland at present are intriguing; and statistics provided on the levels of imprisonment, the use of temporary release and the pervasive problem of over-crowding are fascinating. Continue reading “"[C]onditions in some of our prisons may expose the State to significant reputational, legal and financial risk": Thornton Hall Review Group Report”

"[C]onditions in some of our prisons may expose the State to significant reputational, legal and financial risk": Thornton Hall Review Group Report

Falling Between Two Governments

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has drawn attention, by way of a press release, to certain legislative issues which are now in limbo given the dissolution of the 30th Dáil and in need of urgent attention on the establishment of the 31st Dáil. In particular, the IPRT has highlighted that while the Fines Act 2010 was signed into law by President Mary McAleese on 2 June 2010 a number of its most important sections have not been formally commenced. Chief among those is section 15 of the Fines Act 2010 which allows for persons owing court-ordered fines to pay them by instalment over a period of 1 year (or 2 years in certain circumstances). While section 14 of the Act, which insists that the courts take into account the individual’s personal financial circumstances when determining the amount of the relevant fine, if any, to be imposed, has been commenced, the IPRT claims that the failure to ensure full implementation of the Act is contributing to “soaring numbers” of persons continuing to be imprisoned for failure to pay fines. Continue reading “Falling Between Two Governments”

Falling Between Two Governments

Inspector of Prisons Reports Recently Published

On October 22nd a number of important reports were published by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons in Ireland:

  1. The Irish Prison Population – an examination of duties and obligations owed to prisoners
  2. Report of an Investigation on the use of ‘Special Cells’ in Irish Prisons
  3. Guidance on Best Practice relating to Prisoners’ Complaints and Prison Discipline
  4. Inspector of Prisons Annual Report (March 2009 – September 2010)

1. In the report on The Irish Prison Population – an examination of duties and obligations owed to prisoners the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, Continue reading “Inspector of Prisons Reports Recently Published”

Inspector of Prisons Reports Recently Published

"Slopping Out" – Unacceptable but not Unconstitutional

A decision was handed down by the High Court yesterday in the case of Mulligan v Governer of Portlaoise Prison, which, as noted here before, involved a claim for damages from a former prisoner of Portlaoise Prison based on the assertion that the practice of “slopping out” was humiliating, degrading, and in breach of his constitutional and human rights. The High Court decided against Mr Mulligan and considered that, in the particular circumstances of this case, the practice did not amount to a breach of his rights either under the Constitution or under the European Convention on Human Rights.

A Press Release from the Irish Penal Reform Trust notes that a most disappointing element of the judgment is that while the Court found the conditions of sanitation, ventilation and hygiene in this case to be “unacceptable”, they were not considered sufficiently bad to constitute a violation of constitutional rights.  In his judgment, MacMenamin J noted that the Irish Prison Service had undertaken to address the issue of “”slopping out” eleven years ago, in 1999, having considered the practice to be unacceptable since the early 1990s, but no real progress has been made on this issue in the older prisons. Continue reading “"Slopping Out" – Unacceptable but not Unconstitutional”

"Slopping Out" – Unacceptable but not Unconstitutional