Prisons inspector plans new complaints procedures


NEW “ROBUST” prisoner complaints procedures are to be introduced following the publication of a report on the issue by inspector of prisons Judge Michael Reilly.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who yesterday published the document Suggested Prisoner Complaints Model for Irish Prisons, said he was not satisfied the existing complaints procedure was effective.

The plans “envisage a major cultural change in the way complaints are addressed and recorded within the prison system affecting several thousand individuals”, Mr Shatter said.

Prisoners “are in a particularly vulnerable position and they must have access to a credible complaints system that deals with genuine complaints in an open, transparent and independent way”.

Robust new procedures would be implemented, he said, with priority given to complaints of most concern – those alleging serious ill-treatment, use of excessive force, racial discrimination, intimidation or threats. Such complaints will be examined by investigators from outside the prison service.

The 2007 Prisons Act will have to be amended to give the inspector of prisons a formal role in the appeals process, to strengthen his powers in dealing with non-prison personnel and obtaining access to medical records. Draft prison rules have been forwarded to the office of the Attorney General for its advice as an interim measure.

An implementation plan for the procedures is to be drawn up by next spring and the full complaints system will be in operation in all prisons within three years.

Judge Reilly said in his 42-page report it was important to publicise a new system to allow the prison service train governors and all other prison staff. But he said most complaints, many of which dealt with practical day-to-day matters, “can and should be investigated and resolved at local level by prison managers”.