Prison no place for severely unwell people


Sir, – The report by Conor Gallagher on the care for severely mentally unwell prisoners highlighted by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture report makes for deeply uncomfortable reading (“Mentally ill prisoner found naked on floor of solitary confinement cell”, News, November 24th). One cannot fail to be moved by the conditions that these men have endured.

In our analysis of the Irish penal policy system, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has often had to be critical of practices in Irish prisons. But in this instance, Irish citizens must understand that the job that we have given prison staff is impossible.

Prison is not the appropriate place for severely unwell people.

Prison officers face a uniquely difficult job at the best of times.

In circumstances where the penal system is effectively serving as a release valve for our catastrophic failure to provide care for psychological and psychiatric patients, prison officers are bound to be found wanting. They have not the skills nor the resources to meet such needs.

We must engage with this report and its shocking revelations seriously.

That means allowing prison officers to do the job they are called to do: providing safe and secure custody and dignity of care for prisoners who are given the chance for rehabilitation.

We can no longer expect the Prison Service to pick up the slack for our failure to fund and equip our housing and health systems. – Yours, etc,


Penal Policy Advocate,

Jesuit Centre

for Faith and Justice,

Gardiner Street Upper,

Dublin 1.