Calls for reform of prison visiting committee system

Friday 13 September 2013 16.48
The Irish Penal Reform Trust said visiting committees have no powers to introduce reforms
The Irish Penal Reform Trust said visiting committees have no powers to introduce reforms

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has called for the introduction of stronger legislation to help reform the prison visiting committee system.

Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust Liam Herrick said the Government had pledged to create a national body to identify mistreatment of prisoners and those being held in custody by gardaí and psychiatric institutions.

He said there had also been a commitment in the Programme for Government to bring the visiting committees under the supervision of the Inspector of Prisons.

Currently members of the committees are appointed by the Minister for Justice but have no powers to introduce prison reforms.

Mr Herrick said that while some progress had been made, not enough had been done by the Government over the past two years.

He said the trust was also calling for the establishment of a formal complaints mechanism for prisoners.

The group said prisoners have no faith in the internal complaints system and visiting committees have no power to do anything about complaints brought to it during prison inspections.

The Department of Justice published its annual prison inspection reports yesterday.

Inspection teams met prisoners in six institutions - Loughan House, Mountjoy Prison, St Patrick's Institution, Training Unit, Wheatfield Prison and Portlaoise Prison.

The report highlighted concerns about staffing levels at a number of institutions and cuts to library and chaplaincy services.