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Concerns about Dóchas centre

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and the Irish Penal Reform Trust have expressed their alarm at media reports that a culture of “fear, indifference, hostility, and ineptitude” pervades the Dóchas prison for women in Mountjoy.

An article in the Irish Examiner quotes an email seen by the paper in which serious concerns are expressed about the culture and ‘toxic’ environment experienced by the female prisoners in the centre. The email was sent to the authorities by the prison chaplain Clare Hargaden (wife of the Director of the JCFJ, Kevin Hargaden).

According to Keith Adams of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, the recent media stories of the treatment of prisoners and chaplaincy in the Dóchas Centre are deeply troubling. “Advocating on behalf of prisoners who are being mistreated,” he says, “is only a part of a chaplain’s role, but this treatment of a single chaplain will have a wider chilling effect on the Office of Chaplaincy within the Irish Prison Service.” He adds: “We see in the reports how requests made on behalf of prisoners to call families were denied and the privacy of sessions were violated. I fear this reported culture within the Dóchas Centre may undermine the role of Chaplain as women seek care and counsel.”

Read the full joint press statement below.

IPRT & JCFJ MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

25 September 2020

Reported Treatment of Prisoners and Chaplaincy in Dóchas Centre Alarming

A joint statement from the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice:

The Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice are alarmed today by reports in the national press about the culture and environment endured by female prisoners and staff in the Dóchas Centre at Mountjoy. We condemn in the strongest possible terms any inhumane treatment of prisoners, and especially so during a pandemic when the resources made available to prisoners are curtailed.

Chaplaincy is a pivotal service within the prison environment and both organisations are dismayed to hear reports that suggest systemic marginalisation and undermining of this office. We call on the Department of Justice to initiate a thorough and transparent review to address the concerns that have been raised in both today’s media reports, as well as those detailed in media coverage of unpublished Prison Chaplain annual reports in recent weeks.

We believe that the lack of published prison inspection reports has potentially created an environment where everyone in the prison system, staff and prisoners alike, are vulnerable to mistreatment. A strong commitment was made by Minister for Justice Ms Helen McEntee TD to resourcing the new Framework for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland last week, and we welcome this. It is essential that a programme of robust prison inspections is now commenced, and that reports by the Inspector of Prisons and Prison Visiting Committees are published in a timely fashion.

Fíona Ní Chinnéide

Executive Director

Irish Penal Reform Trust

CONTACT: +353 (0) 87 181 2990

Keith Adams

Social Justice Advocate

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice

CONTACT: +353 (0) 86 165 2917

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

Declaration of Interest: Kevin Hargaden, the Director and Social Theologian of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice is married to Claire Hargaden, the Prison Chaplain at the Dóchas Centre.
The organisations were responding to reports by Michael Clifford in the Irish Examiner, available here and here.

The most recent inspection report on Dóchas was an Interim Report published in 2013. At the time, the late Inspector of Prisons noted Dóchas had “to a degree, lost its way”. A full report was due to be completed 6 months following the interim report, to assess progress, but no report was published. All prison inspection reports are available here
2018 Annual Report of the Dóchas Centre Visiting Committee: