Shatter refuses to publish prison report

 

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has declined to publish a report by the prison-visiting committee of St Patrick’s Institute for Young Offenders because it failed to identify serious issues detected by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly.

Reports compiled by all of the visiting committees for every other jail in the Republic for 2011 were published last year, some as recently as October.

However, Mr Shatter has asked the St Patrick’s committee to “review” its 2011 report and draft an amended version that would take into account Judge Reilly’s much more damning findings.

The visiting committee reports for 2011 are the most up-to-date. The 2012 reports are not yet ready for publication.

In response to Dáil questions from Maureen O’Sullivan TD (Independent), Mr Shatter said Judge Reilly’s report, released last October, had identified possible human rights violations involving prisoners as young as 16 in the prison on the Mountjoy site in north Dublin.

Child prisoners

Some child prisoners were being forcibly moved to isolation cells and forcibly stripped, at times with the clothes being cut from their backs by staff using knives, leaving injuries.

This was “degrading and a form of punishment, intimidation and abuse”. One 18 year-old was in a special observation cell on “virtual 24-hour lock-up” for two months.

Ms O’Sullivan said she hoped Mr Shatter was not trying to alter the findings of a committee. “The report should have been published,” she said.

Judge Reilly’s findings were based on inspections he had carried out since his appointment in 2008. In that period, the visiting committee reports have given the jail a clean bill of health.

‘Humanitarian way’

The committee’s most recent published report, for 2010, found the prison was being run in “an efficient, fair, safe and humanitarian way. The committee are satisfied that this is always the case.”

However, in light of Judge Reilly’s findings, the publication of the visiting committee report for 2011, which again praises the prison, would be very embarrassing for Mr Shatter and members of the committee.

It would also undermine the visiting committee process, under which the Minister appoints people to separate committees for each jail to carry out unannounced visits and report their findings in an annual report. The system is intended as independent oversight to the prisons.