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«MOUNTJOY PRISON AND DOCHAS CENTRE MOUNTJOY INSPECTION: 20th - 31st JANUARY 2003 Role of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention for Ireland ...»

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Role of the Inspector of

Prisons and Places of Detention for Ireland

The Office of the Inspector was established by an order signed by the

Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform on the 21st February 2002.

There is a statutory provision in the forthcoming Prisons Authority Bill for the establishment of a Prisons Inspectorate. The following are the terms of reference for the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention.


To - (a) Inspect and report, as the Inspector considers appropriate, to the Minister on prisons and places of detention under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

(b) Report in particular on conditions in those institutions and on the regimes in place for prisoners and detainees.

(c) Investigate and report on any specific issue referred to the Inspectorate by the Minister.

(d) Submit to the Minister an Annual Report on the activities of the Inspectorate.


In carrying out an inspection of any prison or place of detention the Inspector

will, in general terms, have regard to such matters as:

(a) the quality of the regime;

(b) the attitude of staff and inmates (c) health, safety and well-being of prisoners (d) the conditions of the buildings (e) questions of humanity and propriety;

(f) any general pattern which may indicate possible inadequacies in the management of the prison As the terms of reference provide, the Minister may also request the Inspector to investigate and report on specific issues or incidents connected with the running of any prison or place of detention. Furthermore, the Inspector may raise issues of concern, arising out of an investigation or an inspection, either with local management, the Director General of the Prisons or the Minister. To facilitate the Inspector in carrying out his functions, he may consider complaints from prisoners but only to the extent that such complaints are relevant to the functions of the Inspector. The Inspector will, not later than four months following the end of each calendar year, submit a written report to the Minster on his activities during the year.

It is intended that the annual report will be published. The Inspector will also furnish the Minister with such information relating to his activities as the Minister may require from time to time.

The functions outlined above will also apply to any child detention centres and remand centres designated by the Minister under Section 150 of the Children Act, 2001.

These terms of reference may be further refined in the forthcoming Prisons Bill in the light of the experience gained in the interim. The Inspector will also be entitled to report and make recommendations, in the light of experience gained, on the contents of the legislation which will eventually make statutory provision for the Prisons Inspectorate.

Any enquires or comments about the inspectorate should be directed in the

first instance to:

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1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Statistical Information

4. Governor’s Briefing

5. Meeting with Various Groups

6. Tour of Inspection

7. Health & Safety

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9. Entrance to Centre

10. Meeting with Various Groups

11. The Inspection

12. Health & Safety

13. Recommendations

14. Conclusions

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1.1 On the 20th January 2003 to the 31st January 2003 an inspection of Mountjoy Prison was carried out by the Inspectorate Team which consisted


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2.1 Mountjoy Prison and the womens’ prison known as the Dochas Centre are located on the North Circular Road, at Phibsborough, Dublin 7. The main prison (Mountjoy) was opened in 1850 while the newly built Dochas Centre

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2.2 Mountjoy, when built, was viewed as the most modern prison of its time and offered the latest thinking in prison design & purpose. The principle penal treatment of that time was known as the “Separate System” which was based on the theory that each prisoner should be kept apart from each other, as otherwise, they would become more criminal as result of mingling together.

This thinking resulted in the prisoners working long hours alone in their cells making shoes, tailoring, mattress making, weaving, etc. When outside their cells in the exercise yards, they had to walk paces apart from each other and could not communicate with one another.

2.3 Mountjoy is the most historic prison within the system and is well known throughout Ireland through song and story. However, in October 2001 some of its history was removed, with the transferring of the remains of the volunteers who were executed and laid to rest within the prison walls during the war of Independence, being reinterned in cemeteries outside of the

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members of the public can attend with proceeds from same being donated to various charities.

Mountjoy prisoners under the guidance of Prison Officers have for years being involved in various charity work both within and outside of the prison.

An example of some of their work outside of the prison is the refurbishment or construction of community centres, scout halls, etc.

2.5 It is the main committal prison in the State for sentenced males aged 18 years and upwards, but it also holds a small number of remand, trial and debtor prisoners. Mountjoy Prison has been extremely overcrowded throughout the 1990s but with the opening of Cloverhill Prison where almost all of the remand / trial prisoners are now held relieved some of the overcrowding problem and this has been enhanced further with the opening of the new prison at the Midlands for sentenced prisoners. There is no in-cell sanitation facilities within the main prison except in B Basement and the Medical Unit. There is in cell sanitation in the separation unit which is now unoccupied. The emptying of chamber pots still exists after each period of lock up. When opened in 1850 it had incell sanitation but this was removed in the 1940’s. Chaplaincy, Educational, Medical, Dentistry, Probation & Welfare services are provided in the prison.

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2.6 It is situated on the Mountjoy Prison complex at North Circular Road, Dublin

7. The new women's facilities replaced the old women's prison which was located in a wing of St Patrick’s Institution adjacent to Mountjoy. The new facilities are a wonderful improvement on the accommodation which existed previously, but unfortunately they are overcrowded, which effects the ethos

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2.7 It was opened in 1999 and it comprises of six individual houses plus pre-release and the Healthcare Unit. The houses and facilities are designed in such a way as to form part of the external boundary wall of the centre with open air exercise areas within the centre of the buildings. The open air spaces consist of walkways with flower beds and seating and a special surface covered football/basketball yard. This design also allows for maximum natural light into the rooms. The sleeping accommodation comprises of single rooms, some of which have inter linking rooms to accommodate for mother / baby facilities. Each room has a toilet, wash hand basin and shower. Each house has a kitchen cum dining room and sitting room facility with tv and video, and reading material. However, most of the occupants of the houses use the general dining room facilities for main meals and use the kitchen area of their houses to make tea / coffee etc. The centre is operated on the policy of a graduation theory from an assessment house at the beginning of their sentence to a mid term house and finally to a pre-release house with each stage of the move adding further privileges such as less lockup time. If someone misbehaves, they can be

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2.8 The total room capacity of the centre is 81 consisting of 78 single rooms & 3 cladded rooms. It holds remands, sentenced, trial, debtors, etc. women from

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The normal medical, chaplaincy, welfare educational services are also available to the women detained there.


(Mountjoy male prison.)

3.1 The total cell capacity of the prison is as follows:

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3.2 (There is an additional 107 cells in A Division and 32 cells in Separation Unit not included in the above accommodation as both of these areas are

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Staffing. (Mountjoy male prison.)

3.3 There is a total staff of 501 which does not include teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, chaplains, psychologists, dentists, dietician, optician, drug treatment specialists, etc.

Dochas Centre. (Women's prison.)

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3.6 Staffing. (Dochas Centre ).

There is a total staff of 88 with 2 members job sharing and 2 members on temporary transfer.

(The above staffing does not include teachers, chaplains, probation and welfare, doctor, psychiatrists, counsellors, etc.)

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4.1 On the first day of our inspection we met with the Governor and his senior staff. He outlined that there were 454 male and 93 women prisoners in custody on that day. The Dochas centre is designed to hold 81 but as seen from the numbers presented, it was holding 12 over capacity which puts additional strain on the facilities there. Offices and cladded cells had to be converted into room accommodation to accommodate the extra numbers. In fact, just before Christmas the numbers rose to 103. This is a most unsatisfactory arrangement. There is no other accommodation available for the women within the centre and the Governor stated that it may be possible to convert the locker room and offices over the front gate of the building to make room accommodation for the prisoners. If this were done it would create an extra 25 to 30 rooms. The locker rooms and offices would have to

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4.2 The Governor outlined that the A Division (wing) and the Separation Unit was closed for the commencement of the refurbishment of the prison. However, no such work has started. He stated that a multi disciplinary group which included personnel from Education, Chaplaincy, Medical, Probation and Welfare, Prison Officer Association, psychology, outside agencies (some of whom provide services to prisoners). Senior Prison staff etc as well as Head of Estates Management, Head of Human Resources, Head of Operations in

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senior architect) and worked full time on the project. They produced an outline plan for the refurbishment / rebuilding of the entire complex which included Mountjoy, St Patrick’s and the Training Unit. The plans were on the basis of a “hub” model with all of the services and facilities feeding into it. In this way, one kitchen, one laundry, one reception, one educational area, one medical area etc. would service the entire complex, (with the present arrangement, all of these services are duplicated within each institution). The buildings were planned in such a way as to be located around the perimeter of the complex with open spaces in the centre thus allowing for maximum natural light into the cells and buildings. It also had a water feature running through the middle of it. The plans were rejected on costs grounds and to-date, as far as he knows, no new plans have been drawn up. The Governor is still awaiting information on same from the Estates Management Section at Headquarters. The prison was opened in 1850 and it is in dire need to be replaced or refurbished. The indication for the future would be a knock and build policy rather than refurbish what is there at present.

Mountjoy Prison is one in a group of three prisons considered the worst in the country in relation to the condition of the buildings.


4.3 T.Vs have been installed in the Medical Unit and in the B Basement, but because of the cost of wiring and piping each cell, it is not proposed to extend this facility to any other area until the Governor is made aware of the redevelopment plans from Prisons Headquarters. There is no in-cell sanitary facilities except in the Medical Unit and B Basement.

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psychiatrists from the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum. However, there is difficulty in getting prisoners transferred as inpatients to the C.M.H. due to shortage of available beds at the hospital.The Governor outlined that he was a member of a committee that was looking at this problem at present and they hoped to have a Service Level Agreement signed by all parties i.e. The C.M.H., the Eastern Region Health Board Authority, & the Prison Service very shortly, which hopefully, will help the situation. This of course is dependent on the financial input required to provide this level of service.

4.5 The educational facilities are limited due to the cramped space but the teaching staff were doing a good job with the facilities they had. The same applied to the workshop areas especially the D basement area which is extremely cramped and unsuitable as a workshop. However, the staff and prisoners there turn out great work and the computer area is a great success despite the poor conditions.

4.6 The Inspector raised the matter of staff problems and in particular staff alcohol problems. The Governor outlined that there are a lot of young staff attached to the prison and they were very much into sport, therefore alcohol abuse was not a big problem. There is a very small percentage identified as having a problem with alcohol. He outlined that there were 92 staff seeking a transfer at present but this was very much related to staff wanting to work in a prison close to where they reside.

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