The Office of the Inspectorate of Prisons has recently completed a two-week unannounced full inspection of Mountjoy Men’s Prison in Dublin, from 28 November to 9 December 2022.

This is the first such unannounced full inspection of an Irish prison for many years and it heralds the beginning of the Inspectorate’s programme of regular inspections of all prisons in Ireland.

Unannounced full inspections are carried out under the Inspectorate’s Framework for Inspection of Prisons in Ireland which benchmarks the performance of a prison in five main thematic areas:

  • Respect and Dignity
  • Safety and Security
  • Health and Well-being
  • Rehabilitation and Development
  • Resettlement

This inspection also marked the first occasion on which the Inspectorate has used specially-secured electronic tablets inside a prison to enable a significant number of prisoners to complete an anonymous survey. Staff working in Mountjoy Men’s Prison were also surveyed during the inspection. These survey results became available in real time during the inspection.

The visit was carried out by:

Mark Kelly, Chief Inspector of Prisons
Helen Casey, Deputy Chief Inspector
Ciara O’Connell, Senior Inspector
Rob Bradley, Inspector
Michelle Martyn, Inspector
Fiona O’Dea, Inspector
Mark Wolfe, Inspector
Douglas Nanka-Bruce, Data Analyst

They were assisted by two medical experts, Professor Claire Harrison and Dr Catherine Uhomoibhi, and supported by the Inspectorate’s Administration Team.

Speaking after the inspection ended, Chief Inspector Mark Kelly said:

“Following the 2021 COVID-19 thematic inspections of all prisons in Ireland, this unannounced full inspection of Mountjoy Prison heralds the return of the Inspectorate to its ‘core business’: regular human rights based inspection of all prisons in Ireland. I am grateful to the Governor and staff of Mountjoy Prison for their excellent cooperation during the inspection and for the positive spirit in which the prison’s management team received our preliminary findings.”

A detailed report on the inspection will now be drawn up by the Inspectorate and submitted to the Minister for Justice, with a view to its publication by the Minister under the terms of the Prisons Act 2007.

Note to Editors
The Office of the Inspector of Prisons is a statutory body, independent in how it carries out its work, set up under the Prisons Act 2007.

The law underpinning the role of Chief Inspector of Prisons is set out in Part 5, Sections 30 to 32 of the Prisons Act 2007. Section 30 provides for the appointment of the Chief Inspector, Section 31 sets out the functions of the Chief Inspector and Section 32 specifies the requirement to submit an Annual Report to the Minister for Justice, by 31 March in any year.

Under Section 31 of the Act the Chief Inspector of Prisons is obliged to carry out regular inspections of prisons and for this purpose may:

  • at any time enter any prison or any part of a prison,
  • request and obtain from the Governor a copy of any books, records, other documents or extracts from such documents, and,
  • in the course of an inspection or arising out of an inspection bring any issues of concern to the notice of the governor of the prison concerned, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service or the Minister as the Chief Inspector considers appropriate. The Chief Inspector may, and must if he receives a request from the Minister, investigate any matter arising out of the management or operation of a prison and shall submit to the Minister a report on any such investigation.

Governors, prison officers, other persons employed in prisons and prisoners, must as far as reasonably practicable, comply with any request for information that the Inspector may make in the performance of his or her functions.

Since 2012, the Chief Inspector has been tasked by the Minister with the investigation into the circumstances of all deaths in custody and those within one month of temporary release from custody.

In addition to the legislative authority derived from the Act, the Inspector has specified functions under Prison Rules 2007-2013 in relation to the Irish Prison Service Prisoner Complaints Procedure (Rule 57B) and letters from prisoners (Rule 44(1)(h)).

It is anticipated that, in the near future, the Inspectorate will become the Inspectorate of Places of Detention, with an expanded remit as the National Preventive Mechanism for the Justice sector under the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

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