Mountjoy jail slopping out regime to end soon
Decades of domestic and international reports critical of slopping out in prisons
Mountjoy Prison: situation had been exacerbated by the overcrowding in the system. Photograph: David Sleator
The practice of slopping out will be eliminated in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin for the first time in its 160-year history within the next six months, the director general of the Irish Prison Service has said.
Michael Donnellan added that, with the capital project plans in place for the prison system, all cells in every jail in the State would have in-cell sanitation within the next three years.
The pledge comes after decades of domestic and international reports critical of the situation whereby prisoners are forced to defecate and urinate into chamber pots at night and then empty their contents into communal toilets in the morning.
The situation had been exacerbated by the overcrowding in the system, with sometimes four prisoners to a cell designed for one and prisoners eating their meals in their cells. Mr Donnellan said much of Mountjoy Prison had already been refurbished, with most cells now single occupancy,with toilets and wash-hand basins fitted. “We have made such strides in Mountjoy,” he said at the closing session in Athlone, Co Westmeath, of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) annual conference.
New Cork prison
He said a major priority was the construction of a new Cork Prison, on the car park of the existing facility. In addition, the planned closure of St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders in Dublin at the end of next year would remove all minors from the Irish prison system for the first time since the foundation of the State.
While the number of prisoners locked away in sections of the State’s prisons in order to be protected from others was now at 629 of the 4,300 total prisoner population, Mr Donnellan said two-thirds of them still had some access to gyms, classrooms and other facilities. However, about 200 were on 23-hour lock-up.
Mr Donnellan said while the threat of prison gangs was an issue faced by prisoners and his staff daily, he believed the prison environment was as safe as it could be. Violence in jails was down, with attacks by prisoners on staff falling to 107 cases last year from 141 in 2012. Attacks by prisoners on other prisoners reached 1,115 in 2011 but had fallen very significantly to 715 last year.
While prisoners absconding from open prisons always attracted adverse coverage, most of those who fled were returned to jail very quickly.
All of the complaints made by prisoners against prison officers and investigated under a new independent system established six months ago have been found to be without foundation, it has emerged.
The Prison Officers’ Association believes it is too easy for prisoners to make vexatious complaints and wants punishments for those found to have fabricated or embellished a complaint.
In his address to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter at the conference yesterday, Mr Delaney reiterated that the POA was moving to ballot its members on strike action should the Government impose a pay cut and not honour concessions the POA had secured on allowances during the recent talks on the failed Croke Park extension agreement.
Mr Shatter said he accepted the POA had worked hard to reach a deal. He said this would be uppermost in his thoughts when any new arrangements on remuneration were being introduced into the justice area.