Dublin, 29 November 2023

Ireland’s statutory prison watchdog, the Office of the Inspectorate of Prisons (OIP), has just completed a seven day unannounced full inspection of the Shelton Abbey Open Centre in County Wicklow. The visit concluded on Monday 27 November 2023 with a formal meeting at which the Inspectorate shared its preliminary findings with the Governor and a representative of Irish Prison Service Headquarters.

This is the sixth unannounced full inspection of an Irish prison/open centre in the last twelve months and forms part 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 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

During its time in Shelton Abbey, the Inspectorate again used specially-secured electronic tablets to enable a significant number of residents to complete an anonymous survey. Staff working in Shelton Abbey were also surveyed anonymously. These survey results became available in real time during the inspection.

The inspection was carried out by:

Mr Mark Kelly, Chief Inspector of Prisons

Ms Pia Janning, Senior Inspector

Dr Ciara O’Connell, Senior Inspector

Ms Laura Anderson, Inspector

Dr Sarah Curristan, Inspector

Mr Thomas Harte, Inspector

Ms Michelle Martyn, Inspector

Dr Douglas Nanka-Bruce, Data Analyst

They were assisted by Dr Lucy Belton, General Practitioner.

The inspection team also benefitted from the expertise of Ms Liz O’Neill and Ms Frances Moss, Senior Inspectors from the Inspectorate of the Department of Education (*).

Speaking at the end of the inspection, Chief Inspector Mr Mark Kelly said:

“An open centre such as Shelton Abbey should do much more than offer decent living conditions to residents and good working conditions for staff. Such centres should also play a significant role in equipping people coming towards the end of their sentences with the necessary tools, skills and training to successfully reintegrate back into the outside community. For that reason, during this inspection, we placed particular emphasis on the rehabilitation, development and resettlement dimensions of our monitoring framework.”

“I am grateful to the Governor and his staff for their excellent cooperation throughout the inspection and I look forward to our future work together”.

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 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 2022 was 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.

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).

(*) 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.

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