New Cork Prison doesn't meet necessary standards
Legislation to provide for a new prison in Cork is in the process of passing through both houses of the Oireachtas, the Dáil and Seanad Éireann. The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has been referenced a number of times during these debates, and two of its team members Fr Peter McVerry and Eoin Carroll have been quoted. The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice welcomes the replacement of the old prison which has been condemned in numerous reports including those by the Council of Europe's watchdog The Committee for the Prevention against Torture. However, the Centre has serious concerns in the standards set for the proposed prison - in particular the abandonment of the principle of one-person, one-cell. To view the transcription of the debates click here for the Dáil and here for Seanad Éireann.
Nearly thirty years ago Dr T.K. Whitaker's committee drafted some basic principles and standards for Irish Prisons. These said that prisoners' daily routine and standard of living should broadly reflect that of the national average. The committee noted that prisoners should have ready access to toilet facilities and a cell to themselves. Cork prison will have 170 cells of which only 30 will be single cells. This means that up to 280 prisoners of a potential 310 will be sharing cells. Fr Peter McVerry who regularly visits Mountjoy Prison has said "a central feature of the current renovation programme in Mountjoy Prison is the provision of single occupancy cells. In the sections of Mountjoy where refurbishment has now been completed, there has been a huge improvement in the environment, with dramatic reductions in the levels of intimidation and violence. I believe this is in no small part due to implementation of a policy of single occupancy."
At a minimum, there is need for single cell accommodation for long-term prisoners. This principle is recognised by the European Prison Rules and a standard set by the Irish Inspector of Prisons. Although Cork prison currently holds 39 prisoners on long-term sentences, the new prison plans for only 30 single cells. Furthermore, the new prison will increase capacity by 25% which, based on current averages, could result in an increase in the number of long-term prisoners to just under 50. The principle of single-cell occupancy for long-term prisoners will be impossible to abide by within the new prison.
Posted in Criminality, Prisons and Justice News