St Patrick's report finds bullying of prisoners


THERE IS a bullying, fearful, degrading and intimidatory culture created by some staff in St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders “where the human rights of some prisoners, including children, are being ignored or violated”, according to the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly.

Some child and young adult prisoners who could be described as “vulnerable” were being especially targeted.

In his most critical report on any prison in the State since taking the office of Inspector of Prisons, Judge Reilly sets out a litany of serious allegations against some staff in the north Dublin jail, which can hold up to 231 prisoners aged 16 to 21.

He found child prisoners were being forcibly moved to isolation cells using head and arm lock control and restraint methods, with walking never permitted for any transfer.

Once at the cells, some were forcibly stripped, at times with the clothes being cut of their backs by staff using knives and leaving injuries. This was “degrading and a form of punishment, intimidation and abuse”. Judge Reilly noted that it involved some young inmates who had been sexually or physically abused as children.

He found there was “no proper management structure” in St Patrick’s, a facility in which the drug problem was worse than in any other prison in the system and where prison gangs were rife.

He did not trust even basic record-keeping such as prisoner and teacher attendances in the prison school. He has decided to bring in his own education experts to test his belief that even the length of the school day is being significantly overestimated in official Irish Prison Service data.

Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter received the report 3½ months ago. He published it last night along with eight prison visiting committee reports.

He described as “quite shocking” Judge Reilly’s report into St Patrick’s.

“Neither I nor the Government will tolerate this type of abuse. I have instructed the director general of the Irish Prison Service (Michael Donnellan) to ensure that everything possible is done to address these issues within the timeframes set by the Inspector if not before then.”

Mr Shatter’s decision to publish the report after 3½ months, and in the evening alongside so many other reports, is likely to invite suggestions that he was attempting to limit the impact of Judge Reilly’s criticisms.

In the 12 months to March 31st, 2012, there were 220 cases of prisoners being forcibly removed to special observation cells.

However, only 132 of these were recorded in official paperwork and of these, Judge Reilly believed 88 were not recorded properly.

Prisoners who lodged complaints were induced or intimidated by some staff into withdrawing them or not complaining in the first instance. In the 12 months to March 31st “in no case was any complaint upheld”.

A small number of the 198 prison officers working at the jail “by their physical and other actions, intimidate and instil fear into prisoners (both children and adults) and in particular into those who could be classed as the most vulnerable”. Judge Reilly continues: “They bully prisoners. They provoke retaliation by prisoners which results in … disciplinary measures being taken.”

On a recent visit Judge Reilly found an 18-year-old in a special observation cell on “virtual 24 hour lock up” for two months.

He had suffered a recent injury to his right eye, claiming he had fallen out of bed. Judge Reilly said he did not believe him and that the teenager was in fear of staff and because of that asked that their conversation end. “This was the first time that any prisoner, in any prison, had displayed such fear in my presence,” he wrote.