St Patrick's shut after report on safety of young prisoners
THE Government has been forced to shut the nation's main detention centre for young offenders after the Inspector of Prisons warned that the safe and secure custody of the inmates could no longer be guaranteed.
Judge Michael Reilly told the Government in a special report that St Patrick's Institution should be closed immediately and its name consigned to history.
In a damning report submitted to Justice Minister Alan Shatter, the judge outlined a shocking litany of what he described as "disturbing incidents" and breaches of the fundamental rights of prisoners.
Based on the report, Mr Shatter brought a proposal to Government to close the prison and this was accepted by the Cabinet on Tuesday night.
The minister said yesterday he was satisfied that the complete closure of St Patrick's – which had been disclosed in the Irish Independent on Monday – was now required.
In his report, Judge Reilly said a number of improvements had been made in St Patrick's.
Many of his previous concerns had been addressed, he said, and the vast majority of prison officers there showed respect to and understanding of the prisoners in their care. But he then outlined a series of problems, which he said showed that the culture in the institution had not changed.
During one unannounced visit, he found that a prisoner had been placed in a cell that was filthy, with a considerable quantity of stale food on the floor and a toilet that was not flushing.
Another prisoner, who had been moved to St Patrick's that day, was crying because he had been refused permission to phone his father and was afraid.
A third inmate was shivering from the cold. He had not been allowed telephone his family and parts of his cell were filthy.
The prisoner explained that he was on medication for a psychiatric illness but had not received his medication that day. Judge Reilly said the prisoner was afraid and crying.
When he asked why the prisoners had been refused permission to contact their families, he was told: "The governor's secretary would have to set this up on the system, otherwise one would not know who the calls would be made to." He did not accept this.
Justice Minister Mr Shatter said that pending the development of new facilities at Oberstown in north Co Dublin in the middle of next year, he was ordering the transfer of all 17-year-old inmates to a dedicated unit at Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin and the move of all 18-to-20-year-olds to another part of Wheatfield.
Staff are being transferred to other prisons within six months.