Office of the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2022 Published
Minister of Justice Helen McEntee has published the Office of the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report for 2022.
This is the 12th Annual Report of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and is in accordance with the ‘Inspection Framework for Prisons in Ireland’. The 2022 report provides an overview of the Inspectorate’s work and oversight of Ireland’s prisons.
Publishing the report, Minister McEntee said, “the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Mark Kelly was appointed in August 2022 and it is clear that he has set about ensuring that the Office of the Inspector of Prisons continued to carry out the full range of its oversight function of Ireland’s prisons to the fullest extent possible. Mr Kelly and his team have met their responsibility of monitoring the treatment of prisoners and the conditions across the full prison estate with great commitment and consideration and I am pleased to have the opportunity to acknowledge this.”
Within the 2022 Annual Report, the Inspectorate of Prisons sets out the significant body of work conducted; including publication of the final four of twelve reports into Covid Thematic Inspections of all prisons in Ireland (on Castlerea, Loughan House, Midlands Prisons and the Dóchas Centre).
In November and December 2022, the Inspectorate also carried out an unannounced Inspection of Mountjoy Prison, the first unannounced full inspection of an Irish prison for many years.
The Inspectorate also has a responsibility to investigate Deaths in Custody and as a result prepared and the Minister published 17 such reports in 2022.
In addition, for the first time in 2022, the Inspectorate carried out a Thematic Investigation on Education and Work Training across 3 prisons [Wheatfield, Mountjoy and Arbour Hill]. This was the first of its kind and done in partnership with the Department of Education Inspectorate. The report was published in June 2023.
Minister McEntee went on to say, “I welcome the oversight provided in the 2022 Annual Report, as it is vitally important to the dignity of care and rehabilitation of prisoners. The report is a culmination of the work carried out by the Inspector of Prisons and his dedicated team, along with the support and engagement of the Irish Prison Service Staff. Effective oversight and evaluation are welcome and important elements in developing and improving our penal system and I want to thank everyone involved for their work.”
The Inspectorate raised concerns regarding the existing Prisoner Complaints system. Work continues with the Irish Prison Service on this and the drafting of the new Prison Rules, and once complete will allow the new Prison Complaints system to operate effectively.
In relation to overcrowding in prisons, the Minister has approved measures to reduce prison capacity pressures, including amendment of eligibility criteria for the Community Return and the Community Support Schemes and for consideration of Temporary Release along with proposed capital solutions for the Prisons Estate and four capital projects.
In the 2022 Annual Report, the Inspector of Prisons emphasises the importance of maintaining functional independence and the Department of Justice is supportive and continues to engage with the Office of the Inspector of Prisons in the context of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill. This is to ensure there is alignment of the new and the existing responsibilities of the office and alignment with Ireland’s obligations under OPCAT. Drafting of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill is underway and a first draft is expected shortly from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.
The Inspector of Prisons, Mark Kelly added, “the work of the Inspectorate set out in our Annual Report for 2022 has continued at pace in the current year, with full unannounced inspections of Cork and Cloverhill Prisons and the Dóchas Centre; re-prioritisation of our death in custody investigations and tightening our oversight of the most serious complaints by prisoners (known as Category A complaints).”
“I welcome the renewed commitment by the Minister to bring forward legislation to enable Ireland to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and to take measures to tackle overcrowding. In December 2022, I signalled that, unless urgent action was taken, such as imposing an enforceable ceiling on the number of people who can be held in each prison, the dramatic overcrowding observed by my team in Mountjoy Prison for Men in 2022 would become a grave problem for the prison system as a whole. The need to tackle overcrowding through a broad range of criminal justice interventions is now more acute than ever.”