The visiting Committee at the Midlands Prison has said that the medical service in the midlands is seriously under-staffed.

In its annual report for 2015, it said despite the best efforts of the doctor at the prison, he struggles to provide the service he would wish to deliver.

The report said the Midlands Prison Medical Services comprises just one full time doctor.

While a second doctor was available for some time, that doctor left the service during the year.

The doctor outlined his very serious concerns, including concerns for the human rights of prisoners, to the committee.

The report noted that prisoners in the midlands present with many complex issues.

The doctor explained that he does not have dedicated administrative/nursing support.

Concerns raised by prisoners last year included a number of prisoner who were unhappy with access to medical or psychological care.

Other issues raised included visitors being barred and/or restricted to screened visits. But the committee said having discussed the issue with the prison authorities the committee is satisfied that the decisions around visits are made in a fair, reasonable and proportionate manner.

Concern was also raised by some prisoners that there was undue delay in getting a response to official complaints made to the authorities.

But the committee said it was satisfied that proper procedures were being followed in the prison regarding the processing of complaints.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Visiting Committee for St Patrick's Institution has said he thinks there needs to be some clarity and certainty about the future of the institution.

In his annual report for 2015, Pat Burke Walsh said the most inmates present at any one time when he called, was three.

On most other visits, he found just one or two inmates present.

The Chairperson said inmates expressed satisfaction with their treatment and seemed very secure and settled in their incarceration.

As St Patrick's Institution is in a semi-state of closure the chair was the only member of the committee.

He said there was a general positivity from the inmates when they talked about conditions in St Patrick's Institution and a general reluctance to be moved to another facility.

He said most of the inmates he dealt with were on remand.

Number of concerns at Dochas Centre - report

The Visiting Committee at the Dochas Centre has said that over-crowding, the detention of mothers with infants, the presence of drugs in the prison and the difficulty in accessing addiction or counselling services on release are still concerns at the prison.

In its annual report the committee said that while there had been welcome improvements at the centre, a number of problems, flagged in several previous reports, remain.

The report says the Dochas Centre is designed to accommodate 105 women. On random checks by the committee they found that numbers regularly reached 120.

While the committee says the numbers never reached the high levels of a few years past, this overcrowding resulted in serious difficulties in accommodation with consequential adverse effects.

The report says five women were housed in the recreation room of one house. They shared a small shower room come toilet.

It says they had nowhere to keep their personal belongings and that personal hygiene and privacy were seriously compromised.

The mattresses, pillows and bedding were described in the report as "old and inadequate".

It also notes that that tensions understandably ran high in the centre. It says that while prison management attempted to alleviate this situation, they were unable to do so.

The committee says it is concerned that this pattern of regular overcrowding will continue and consequently the unacceptable knock on effects resurface.

It also said that many women have told them that at times they are afraid to leave their rooms fearing the aggressive behaviour of those who have taken drugs.

This problem it says seems to be growing and they are urging that all the necessary resources are used to tackle this serious development.

The committee said Prison Officers at the centre work hard in a very challenging environment.

And while many have been praised for their help and support, complaints have been received about unfair treatment and favoritism being shown by some officers.

The committee has said it believes that training officers in dealing with women prisoners is essential and should be on-going.