The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has expressed dismay that the Minister for Justice signed the building contract for a new prison in Cork which is based on double occupancy of cells. According to Eoin Carroll, Advocacy Officer at JCFJ, "This is a retrograde step and in breach of international best practice and contravening the European Prison Rules of the Council of Europe". You can read their full press statement below.
Immediate Release: 13h00 16 January 2014
JESUIT CENTRE CRITICISES PLAN FOR 'DOUBLING UP' AND EXPANSION IN NEW CORK PRISON
The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has expressed dismay that the Minister for Justice will today sign the building contract for a new prison in Cork which is based on double occupancy of cells. JCFJ says this is a retrograde step and in breach of international best practice.
The Jesuit Centre challenges the Minister's previous assertions that the new prison will provide "adequate and suitable accommodation for all prisoners". The Centre points out that a failure to provide single cell accommodation in the new prison will be contrary to Article 18.5 of the European Prison Rules, drawn up by the Council of Europe of which Ireland is a founder member State.
Eoin Carroll, Advocacy Officer in the Jesuit Centre, said: “The Jesuit Centre welcomes the commitment to replace the old prison, but is pressing the Minister to meet best international standards. Article 18.5 of the European Prison Rules is clear: "Prisoners shall normally be accommodated during the night in individual cells except where it is preferable for them to share sleeping accommodation. Plans for Cork prison will see up to 280 prisoners cell sharing."
Carroll continued: “in particular, we are concern for people in prison on extended lock-up and those serving long-term sentences in Cork. The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Reilly in his 2013 Assessment of Prisons, was explicit 'long-term prisoners should be accommodated in single cells'. Our audit of the Irish Prison Service’s strategic plan, published last October, identified that there were 39 long-term prisoners in Cork Prison; the new prison will accommodate nearly 50 per cent more prisoners and will have only 30 single cells.”
Fr Peter McVerry SJ of the Jesuit Centre commented: "Cell sharing should not be the norm in prison. In many cases, it results in increased intimidation and violence, and leads to non-drug users being introduced to drug use. But even without such extreme consequences, enforced sharing can represent a very cramped and oppressive living environment, especially in light of the fact that in Ireland out-of-cell time is, at best, only six or seven hours a day."
Fr McVerry, who regularly visits prisons in the Dublin area, went on to say: "A central feature of the current renovation programme in Mountjoy Prison is the provision of single occupancy cells. In the sections of Mountjoy where refurbishment has now been completed, there has been a huge improvement in the environment, with dramatic reductions in the levels of intimidation and violence. I believe this is in no small part due to implementation of a policy of single occupancy."
Fr Mc Verry added: "It is difficult to understand how the Minister and the Irish Prison Service can ensure that the Mountjoy Prison redevelopment project adheres to the principle of one person, one cell, yet at the same time fail to abide by this key principle in the planning of a brand new prison in Cork."
Eoin Carroll pointed out that only as far back as September 2012 Minister Kathleen Lynch TD, stated that single cell occupancy was the desired standard, saying "All of us agree that the optimum is single cell occupancy" – but argued that it was not feasible in current circumstances. Carroll said: "While it may not be realistic to envisage single cell occupancy across the whole prison system in the immediate future, there is no good reason why adherence to the principle of one person one cell cannot be made an irreducible standard for all new prison development and all refurbishment projects. A failure to do so means, in effect, a departure from the principle not just for now but for generations to come, since any current prison building is likely to remain in use for a very long time."
Eoin Carroll said: “the envisaged new prison in Cork will be yet another missed opportunity to put in place truly modern prison facilities in Ireland. Rather than enlarging the prison capacity (by 100), we should be building on the success of the Community Return Programme, and exhausting all other alternatives to custody."
For further information Contact:
Eoin Carroll (087 225 0793)
Advocacy Officer, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice
- The JCFJ’s examination of the Irish Prison Service’s Strategic Plan can be viewed here
- To view standards set by the Inspector of Prison see: An Assessment of the Irish Prison System By the Inspector of Prisons, May 2013.
- 'Doubling up' has become normal practice in Irish prisons. On the 28 May 2013, over half of the prison population were in multiple occupancy cells. In Cork prison, less than 20 per cent of prisoners were held in single occupancy rooms.(Answer to a written parliamentary question, 30 May 2013)
- The large numbers of prisoners required to 'slop-out' in Irish prisons continues, a practice which has been severely criticised by the UN Committee for the Prevention against Torture. Four prisons within the Irish prison estate do not have in-cell sanitation in every cell, resulting in 565 prisoners required to slop out. Of these, 233 are held in Cork prison, and 205 are held in the male prison in Mountjoy. (Answer to a written parliamentary question, answer posted later to Clare Daly TD)
- European Prison Rules (2006)
- Part II, Allocation and Accommodation
- 18.5 Prisoners shall normally be accommodated during the night in individual cells except where it is preferable for them to share sleeping accommodation. [emphasis added]
- 18.6 Accommodation shall only be shared if it is suitable for this purpose and shall be occupied by prisoners suitable to associate with each other.
- 18.7 As far as possible, prisoners shall be given a choice before being required to share sleeping accommodation.The Irish prison authorities' departure from adherence to the principle of one person, one cell, in policy development is of relevant recent origin. In 1994, the Department of Justice in its policy document, The Management of Offenders, was still speaking of the need to provide additional prison places to eliminate doubling up. Since then, however, by their actions - though not through any explicit and thought-out policy statement - the prison authorities have repeatedly failed to ensure adhere to the principle.
Advocacy and Social Policy Research Officer,
Social Policy and Communications Co-ordinator
The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice
26 Upper Sherrard Street
Tel: 01 - 855 6814
The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice is an agency of the Irish Jesuit Province. The Centre undertakes social analysis and reflection in relation to issues of social justice, including housing and homelessness, penal policy, asylum and migration, health policy and international development [charitable trust. CHY 6965].