Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
107. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she has taken to deal with the concerns of the UN special rapporteur on torture in relation to the numbers of prisoners here being kept in solitary confinement for extended periods, well in excess of the UN recommended 15 day limit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34559/16]
I can advise the Deputy that the restriction of a prisoner's regime can occur due to a number of factors including the protection of vulnerable prisoners. This is provided for under Rule 63 of the Prison Rules 2007. A prisoner may, either at his/her own request or when the Governor considers it necessary, in so far as is practicable and subject to the maintenance and good order and safe and secure custody, be kept separate from other prisoners who are reasonably likely to cause significant harm to him/her.
In addition, the Governor may decide, for the maintenance of good order in the prison, to remove a prisoner from general association or structured activity to reduce the negative effect that a prisoner or prisoners may have on the general population. This is provided for under Rule 62 of the Prison Rules 2007. There may also be a smaller number of prisoners who would be restricted for medical (Rule 64) or discipline reasons (Rule 67).
The Irish Prison Service Statistics Unit commenced the collation of a Quarterly Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners in 2013. Since the commencement of the survey in July 2013, the number of prisoners on 22/23 hour lock up has decreased by 180 or 85 % from 211 to 31.
I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, that the Irish Prison Service has established a high level group to look at measures which can be introduced to reduce the number of prisoners currently held on restricted regimes with a view to ensuring that all receive, as a minimum standard, out of cell time of 3 hours per day, to engage in exercise or activity.
In addition, this Group is to draft a Policy with the aim of seeking to eliminate 22/23 hour lock up from the Irish prison system. The Group has been tasked with presenting the Director General with a draft Policy in January 2017.
I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service publish the Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners on their website (). Restricted Regimes Policy seeks to ensure prisoner access to meaningful activities including Education, Work Training, Gym and Recreation in out of cell time and also provide the prisoner with access to phone calls and visits in accordance with Incentivised Regime levels.
I can also advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service is making significant progress in addressing the various undertakings given in response to the findings and recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) Report of 2014.