St Patrick’s Institution to close within six months

Regular concerns have been raised about centre of detention for young offenders

The Circle at St Patrick’s Institution North Circular Road. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The Circle at St Patrick’s Institution North Circular Road. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The country’s largest institution for young offenders, St Patrick’s in Dublin, is to be shut down amid concerns for inmates’ safety, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has confirmed.

St Patrick’s will close permanently in the next six months. The announcement comes on foot of recommendations in the Inspector of Prisons’ Annual Report, which was published today.

Mr Shatter said that all 17 to 20 year-olds currently serving sentences at St Patrick’s will be transferred to a special unit at Wheatfield prison.

Staff at St Patrick’s will be transferred to different institutions and a special committee has been set up by the Irish Prison Board to facilitate the closure of St Patrick’s.

The building is to be incorporated into the adjoining Mountjoy Prison.

In his report, Inspector Judge Michael Reilly outlined a number of causes for concern over the running of St Patrick’s.

He reported “very disturbing incidents of non-compliance with best practice and breaches of the fundamental rights of prisoners”, including cold cells, broken toilets, lack of inmate records and “filthy” living conditions.

“I am satisfied that the Irish Prison Service can no longer guarantee the safe and secure custody of young offenders detained in St Patrick’s Institution,” added Judge Reilly.

The report also recommended that the name St Patrick’s should be “consigned to history”.

In response to the report’s findings, Mr Shatter said: “The Inspector can be assured that every effort will continue to be made to fully address any deficiencies identified.

“While a significant number of improvements have been made in the Institution, including a new management team being put in place and measures to tackle the flow of drugs, it is disappointing and unacceptable to note the disturbing incidents of non-compliance with best practice and breaches of fundamental rights of prisoners identified by the Inspector,” the Minister added.

St Patrick’s Institution is a closed, medium security prison for males aged 17 to 21 years old. It has a capacity of 191 inmates. It moved to its present site on the North Circular Road in Phibsborough in 1956 and has long been dogged by critical reports on the way in which it has been run.

In his report, Judge Reilly also outlined his concerns for the practices of a number of prisons, including Dochas Centre women’s prison, Wheatfield and Castlerea.

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