Dublin, 26th March 2024

The Office of the Inspectorate of Prisons (OIP) has just completed a four day unannounced general inspection of Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin. The visit concluded on 25 March 2024 with a meeting with senior management at the prison, at which the Inspectorate’s preliminary findings were shared.

This is the seventh full inspection of an Irish prison in the last eighteen months; more than half of Ireland’s prisons have now been fully inspected on an unannounced basis.

General inspections are carried out under the Inspectorate’s Framework for Inspection which benchmarks the performance of prisons and open centres in five main thematic areas:

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

Arbour Hill houses many people who are older and serving longer sentences. Consequently, the inspection focused on the health and welfare needs of older prisoners as well as on the steps being taken to prepare for their successful re-integration into the community. As part of the inspection, the OIP team conducted anonymous surveys with people in prison custody and staff, to gather their views on living and working in Arbour Hill.

The inspection was carried out by:

Mr Mark Kelly, Chief Inspector of Prisons

Dr Ciara O’Connell, Senior Inspector

Ms Laura Anderson, Inspector

Dr Sarah Curristan, Inspector

Ms Michelle Martyn, Inspector

The inspection team was assisted by Dr George O’Mahony, General Practitioner and Ms Liz O’Neill, Senior Inspector from the Inspectorate of the Department of Education[1].


[1] The OIP has concluded a Memorandum of Agreement with the Inspectorate of the Department of Education, enabling it to benefit from the expertise of colleagues from that Inspectorate when assessing educational provision in prisons.

Arbour Hill Prison was also visited by the Inspectorate in May 2021[2] and May 2022[3] and, during its March 2024 inspection, the Inspectorate’s team examined the implementation in practice of the recommendations made following those visits.

Speaking after the full inspection was completed, Chief Inspector Mr. Mark Kelly said:

“Arbour Hill Prison provides an interesting example of an establishment that succeeds in running a relatively relaxed regime within the confines of a medium security perimeter. Maintaining an appropriate balance between security considerations and the legitimate expectations of people living in prison is a delicate task, calling upon the full range of professional skills of Governors and prison staff. Our inspection report will highlight a number of good practices at Arbour Hill, as well as highlighting areas where further progress could be achieved”.

The Inspectorate’s full report will be 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 currently 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. The Inspectorate’s Annual Report for 2023 will be submitted to the Minister within this deadline.

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 Chief Inspector may make in the performance of his functions.

Since 2012, the Chief Inspector has also been obliged to investigate the circumstances of all deaths in custody and those within one month of temporary release from custody.


[2] COVID-19 Thematic Inspection of Arbour hill Prison 12-13 May 2021 – https://www.oip.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/7.-COVID-19-Thematic-Inspection-of-Arbour-Hill-Prison-12-to-13-May-2021.pdf

[3] Thematic Inspection on Education & Work Training – https://www.oip.ie/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Inspection-Report-on-Education-and-Work-Training.pdf

In addition to the legislative authority derived from the Act, the Chief 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).