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“Close St Patrick’s Prison” – JCFJ

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The clear divergence between the just released Visiting Committee’s report into St Patrick’s Institution and the Inspector of Prison’s earlier report, does nothing to change the basic reality that the prison should have been closed down many years ago. So says Eoin Carroll, of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice.

In his report late last year the Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly raised serious concerns about violence from a small number of staff and aimed at prisoners and spoke of a culture of intimidation, poor management and bullying in the institution for young offenders.

The Visiting Committee’s report concluded however that the institution was being run in an “efficient, fair, safe, and humanitarian” manner.

Commenting on the fact that Justice Minister Alan Shatter wanted people to read both reports, Eoin Carroll, Advocacy officer with the JCFJ said that there were clear and marked differences in the two reports. And he noted that the Visiting Committee’s report for 2011, and previous report, all noted the extremely difficult environment in which staff were expected to work. This meant that what was needed was a systematic review of the failure of the Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service to respond appropriately to the concerns regularly voiced about St Patrick’s Institution over many years.

“The reality is that St Patrick’s should have been closed many years ago – one of the recommendations of the Whitaker Committee report as far back as 1985.” And he added, “There is now an urgent need for the authorities who have responsibility for prison policy to accelerate the process of removing young people from St Patrick’s. They must develop a comprehensive plan regarding the physical conditions and regimes that will operate not just for those under 18 but for all young people under 21. Clearly dedicated, age-appropriate centres are needed for this older group.”

Social justice campaigner and long time critic of St Patrick’s, Peter McVerry SJ, said that responsibility for what takes place in St Patrick’s Institution rests not just with the Governor and senior prison staff but goes right up to the highest level of management in the Prison Service, the Department of Justice and various Ministers. “The publication of the Visiting Committee’s Report is again a reminder to  us,” he said, “of how long it seems to take for the political and administrative authorities responsible for prison policy, to respond to serious concerns regarding what goes on in our prison system”.