Ireland’s statutory prisons watchdog, the Office of the Inspectorate of Prisons (OIP), has just completed a nine-day unannounced full inspection of Cloverhill Prison in Dublin, from 15 to 25 May 2023.

This is the third unannounced full inspection of an Irish prison in the last five months and forms part of the Inspectorate’s new 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

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

The inspection was carried out by:

  • Mr Mark Kelly, Chief Inspector of Prisons
  • Dr Ciara O’Connell, Senior Inspector
  • Ms Michelle Martyn, Inspector
  • Mr Mark Wolfe, Inspector
  • Mr Douglas Nanka-Bruce, Data Analyst
  • Ms Louise Joyce, Office Manager

They were assisted by a medical expert, Dr Catherine Uhomoibhi, as well as by Ms Frances Moss and Ms Catherine Treacy from the Inspectorate of the Department of Education (*).

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

“Cloverhill Prison, which primarily receives pre-trial prisoners, is the entry point to a prison system under increasing pressure, as the prison population in Ireland continues to climb. Our preliminary findings have been shared with the Governor of Cloverhill Prison, and our detailed inspection report will include recommendations to the prison, the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice. I am very grateful to the Governor of Cloverhill Prison and his team for their excellent cooperation during the inspection and for their constructive engagement with our preliminary findings.”

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.

Under the Framework for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland, “in the event that an Inspection Team identifies concerns, either around current performance or the risk of adverse impact on future performance, of such significance and consequence that an immediate intervention to mitigate is required, then the Chief Inspector may raise an Immediate Action Notification (IAN).” An IAN can be raised with the Governor of the prison concerned, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service or the Minister for Justice, or each one of them, as the Chief Inspector considers appropriate (paragraph 2.3.5 of the Framework).

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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