A NEW regime for inspections of Cork prison and other prisons in Ireland has been launched.
The new framework will inspect prisons on a range of outcomes, including respect and dignity, health and wellbeing, and rehabilitation and development.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust has welcomed the measure but raised concern that published inspections had not been carried out in Irish closed prisons since 2014.
“Independent inspections play a critical role in preventing torture and ill-treatment in prisons, and encouraging good practice," IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said.
"This rights-led framework will play an important role in improving accountability in Ireland’s prison system and safeguarding the rights of thousands of men and women each year."
She said it is essential that a programme of prison inspections is now commenced.
"There have been no published inspection reports for any closed prison in Ireland since 2014, and half of Ireland’s prisons have not been subject to a published inspection in twelve years or more," she said. "This is unacceptable by any measure."
She called for two immediate actions.
"Government must demonstrate that it is serious about preventing torture and ill-treatment in Ireland through meeting its commitment to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture by end 2021, and the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill needs to be progressed and the independence of the Inspectorate of Prisons strengthened in law and resources," she said.
"While the Irish Prison Service is to be commended for keeping the people in its custody largely free from COVID-19, and for introducing measures to mitigate against harsh restrictions, we simply cannot assess whether minimum human rights standards have been met in the absence of independent inspection reports.”
She added that it is important now that the Office of the Inspector of Prisons is fully resourced both short- and long-term so that it can deliver on a programme of robust prison inspections under the new framework.