Report alleges assaults of inmates by prison officers

 

A NEW report by a European committee that examined Irish jails and other places of detention has outlined a number of allegations of serious assault by prison officers on inmates.

The report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment visited jails, psychiatric hospitals and Garda stations over a 12-day period last January and February.

Most of its report arising from that visit deals with conditions in prisons.

Members of the committee interviewed inmates and recorded allegations of serious assault by prison officers on inmates.

In one case, an inmate in Mountjoy alleged he was “thrown on the floor [by prison officers] and repeatedly stamped and hit on the chest, arms and head” and punched in the ribs after being escorted to the basement.

The report notes: “The photographic evidence of the injuries contained in the medical record is consistent with repeated injury to the chest wall; extensive bruising of the outer aspect of the left arm is not consistent with simply having been restrained.”

Director general of the Irish Prison Service Brian Purcell is reviewing the report into the alleged incident.

In Cork Prison, some inmates complained to committee members that they had been racially taunted by staff or verbally abused because they were Travellers. Some also alleged physical mistreatment.

“The alleged ill treatment consisted mostly of punches and kicks to the body; such treatment seemed to be particularly prevalent during removal to the segregation unit.”

The committee documents one incident in Portlaoise, when four inmates refused to sit on an X-ray chair that scans the body for drugs. They alleged that as a result they were escorted by force to another area in the prison.

They complained of being beaten and kicked in the face, one while handcuffed.

The report, which was due for publication this morning, noted: “The injuries to this prisoner and others involved in the incident were clearly recorded in their medical records.”

A report issued by the State responding to the European committee’s many concerns was also published yesterday.

In relation to the assault allegations by the four inmates in Portlaoise, the State’s report said Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly had investigated the matter. His findings were being reviewed by Mr Purcell and the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

In Cork Prison, one inmate alleged that in December 2009 he was punched in the face and body by a group of prison officers in a reception area of the jail. He said he had been transported a long distance from another jail and needed to use the toilet but was not allowed to do so.

He said he had no option but to defecate in a cell. When prison officers saw this they carried out the alleged assault, he claimed.

An investigation found the allegation was not substantiated and there were no criminal charges.

At the Midlands Prison in December 2009 an inmate claimed that a prison officer had slammed a gate on his face during a heated exchange and had then punched him in the face several times. An X-ray of the inmate’s face revealed he had a fractured nose. The State’s report said Mr Purcell was personally reviewing the file into this case.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the Government must study the report and implement many important recommendations. The Irish Penal Reform Trust said the new report clearly documented “a prison service in crisis”.

Committee for the prevention of torture: What it says about irish prisons

CORK PRISON

The jail was “unhealthy”, with three sleeping in one-man cells with no in-cell sanitation, and where the air was “rank and humid”. This was “a health hazard and degrading”. Some inmates claimed they were racially taunted by prison officers.

MOUNTJOY PRISON

The issues of overcrowding, prison gangs and violence all represented such a serious problem that the jail was unsafe for both inmates and staff. “Stabbings, slashings and assaults . . . are an almost daily occurrence.”

MIDLANDS PRISON

In one case a prisoner claimed he was assaulted by a prison officer during which the inmate’s nose was broken. Inmates who witnessed the incident were not interviewed and the prison officer’s version of events did not tally with CCTV. No action was taken.

ST PATRICK’S INSTITUTION

Boys aged 16 and 17 were still being detained, with no timeframe in place for that practice to end. This was despite the enactment of the Children’s Act almost a decade ago under which official policy is to place children in custody only as a last resort.