Jail chief demands drug-free units
Inspector sets July deadline for prison authorities to implement directives
THE Inspector of Prisons has called for the setting up of drug-free support units in every jail in the State.
Judge Michael Reilly said a dedicated area should be available in each prison to accommodate prisoners who want to be separated from active drug users.
However, he believed that prisoners should "earn" the right to be held in a drug-free environment.
In his annual report, published yesterday, Judge Reilly said he expected all relevant prisons to announce within six months that they were establishing such units, along with dedicated committal areas for new arrivals and high support units for vulnerable inmates.
He recommended that every prison, apart from open centres, should have a separate, standalone unit for vulnerable prisoners. He said it should be properly staffed with the benefit of a team from the Central Mental Hospital, under the direction of a consultant psychiatrist.
But he warned that the units should not be used as an alternative to the Central Mental Hospital or any other medical facility.
Judge Reilly set a deadline of July 1 for the prison authorities to comply with his previously issued directives for best practice. These include appropriate procedures to be put in place when deaths occur in custody.
"Protocols for the holding of inquiries should be in place and proper records should be maintained," he added.
Over the past three years since he took up his appointment, Judge Reilly said he found there was no consistent procedure for the investigation of prisoners' deaths across the Irish prison system.
He also found that such investigations had not met the requirements of international best practice.
He also wanted full records to be maintained on healthcare issues, complaints procedures, disciplinary matters and the use of safety observation and supervision cells.
He expected that after July 1 he would not have to comment on dirty prison sections; unpainted areas; unacceptable cell conditions; broken, out of commission or leaking equipment; or broken windows.
If all of his requirements were not met by then, each prison should have a published timescale for completion of the works, he said.
After the deadline, he would monitor each prison to ensure that best practice was being met and would be particularly vigilant in the adoption of proper complaints and discipline procedures, he said
"If, after that date, I find that best practice is not being followed or that the guidance I have given has been ignored, I will be led to the inescapable conclusion that management is indifferent to their obligations," he added.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said last night he welcomed the report, which he described as balanced and helpful.
He also felt that the recommendations would greatly improve the way prisons were run and he looked forward to hearing of progress in those areas.