Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

Assessment of Progress

The overall purpose of PIPS is to assess progress across a broad range of issues in Ireland’s penal system over three years. PIPS 2017 developed 35 standards against which the prevailing situation in Ireland’s penal system will be independently tracked and monitored on an annual basis. It includes a series of indicators of progress and short-term actions recommended for implementation each year.

In PIPS 2018, IPRT has used a wide variety of research methods, including the completion of a comprehensive desk review of publicly available information, engaging directly with stakeholders and submitting parliamentary questions to assess the current situation in Ireland’s penal system. In order to track and monitor progress over the year, we have collated this information and analysed any developments against each standard.

On that basis, we have also made a top-line assessment, classifying developments over the last 12 months as ‘Progress’, ’Regress’, ‘Mixed’, ‘No Change’ or ‘Insufficient Data’.

Progress: Where there has been identified and significant movement towards attainment of the standard.
Regress: Where there has been identified and significant movement away from the attainment of the standard.
Mixed: Where there has been both progress towards the standard in some areas and regress away from it in others.
No change: Where there has been neither significant progress nor regress.
Insufficient data: Where sufficient or adequate data is not available to make a reliable assessment of progress towards the standard.
Standard Theme Assessment Rationale
S1 Progressive penal policy Mixed While publication of the Data and Research Strategy 2018–2020 and the Joint Oireachtas Committee Report on Penal Reform and Sentencing 2018 is positive, overall little progress has been made in the implementation of previous policy recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality 2013 and the Strategic Review of Penal Policy 2014.
S2 Imprisonment as a last resort Regress There has been a net increase in the rate of imprisonment from 79 per 100,000 in May 2017 to 83 per 100,000 in July 2018.
S3 Safe custody limits No change Overcrowding has remained a feature over the last 12 months particularly in the women’s prisons.
S4 Size of prisons No change There have been no significant moves to reduce the size of existing prisons.
S5 Minimum security settings No change Very limited use of minimum security settings has continued, with fewer than 300 prisoners accommodated in low security settings in May 2018.
S6 Open prison provision No change Open provision in Ireland remains at a very low level at 6.7% of the prison estate, comparing unfavourably with, for example the Finnish rate of 40%
S7 Humane prison conditions Insufficient data This is difficult to assess in the absence of recent independent inspection reports; there have been no prison inspection reports published in 2018.
S8 In-cell sanitation No change Slopping out continues to affect 1.3% of the population with negligible reduction in numbers since 2017.
S9 Single cell accommodation No change The percentage of the prison population currently with access to single-cell accommodation has remained at 53%.
S10 Separation of remand from sentenced prisoners Regress There has been a substantial increase in number of remand prisoners sharing cells with sentenced prisoners, from 92 in July 2017 to 222 in July 2018.
S11 Family contact Mixed The opening of a new family visiting room in Limerick Prison and statement that all prisons now have child-friendly visiting conditions are positive. However, Skype contact is not yet the norm.
S12 Access to healthcare services Mixed Executive Clinical lead for IPS has been appointed but no progress made on the independent review of the entire prison healthcare system or on inspections by HIQA.
S13 Mental healthcare No change Consistently, there are 20–30 prisoners with severe mental illness awaiting transfer to CMH. There is only one ‘designated centre’ to receive forensic patients and a new facility at Portrane is unlikely to meet projected need.
S14 Drug and alcohol treatments No change A national Drug Treatment Programme based in the Medical Unit at Mountjoy can only facilitate up to 18 individuals; there are currently 44 prisoners on the waiting list for this programme.
S15 Privacy Insufficient data Insufficient data available to assess this standard.
S16 Out of cell time No change Approximately 13% of the prison population is on a ‘restricted regime’, with 68.6% of those on 21-hour lock up (July 2018). Only 23% of the prison population engaged in vocational training and 43% participated in education in January 2018.
S17 Integrated sentence management [ISM] Mixed Insufficient numbers of ISM Coordinators, with only 23 employed to manage 2,533 eligible prisoners. Appointment of ISM Coordinator for those on J-ARC, community support and community return schemes is positive.
S18 Life skills Progress Progress made on establishment of a third Independent Living Skills Unit (Wheatfield, Midlands, Mountjoy) and there has been increase in the number of prisoners with access to communal dining.
S19 Education Regress The majority of prisons have seen a decrease in education participation rates over the first half of 2018.
S20 Community engagement & involvement Mixed Some positive community engagement projects continue, e.g. Irish Red Cross. However, participation in the highly successful Community Return Programme has reduced significantly from 352 in 2015 to 206 in 2017.
S21 Political & civic participation Regress Voting rates have reduced over time, with only 58 prisoners voting in the May 2018 referendum on the 36 th Amendment to the Constitution. Of these, three were female.
S22 Complaints system No change A new internal complaints process is still under development. The number of Category A complaints received to end June 2018 is 41.
S23 Independent complaints and appeal mechanism No change Prisoners still do not have access to a fully independent external complaints mechanism or access to the Office of the Ombudsman.
S24 Inspections & monitoring Mixed Appointment of new Inspector of Prisons is positive but no inspection reports have been published in 2018. Legislation to ratify OPCAT promised by end 2018 but no draft legislation published. No progress on reform of Prison Visiting Committees.
S25 Investigations into deaths in custody Mixed 13 death in custody reports have been published to date in 2018. In some cases significant delays occurred between the submission of the report to the Minister and its publication.
S26 Solitary confinement Mixed 44 prisoners were being held in solitary confinement in April 2017; this reduced to 12 in April 2018 but rose again to 35 in July 2018. Information on the duration of time individual prisoners spend in solitary confinement remains unavailable.
S27 Violence in prisons Mixed Decrease in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults from 715 in 2012 to 417 in 2017. Prisoner-on-staff violence has increased by 1%. A new ‘Violence Reduction Unit’ is to be co-led by Psychology and Operations; it is too early to evaluate its operation.
S28 Prisoner escorts Insufficient data Review into prison escort services conducted by the DJE in 2017 has not been published. No handcuffing-by-exception policy has been introduced.
S29 Staff training Progress Development of Code of Ethical Behaviour and practice workshops for prison staff is positive.
S30 Developing positive relationships and work culture Insufficient data Measuring the Quality of Prison Life survey has not been published.
S31 Use of force Insufficient data Data on use of force per prison per year was not available. Conflict Management Operation and Training Protocol which aims to minimize the use of force has been developed.
S32 Cohorts of prisoners at risk of discrimination Mixed Commitments made in IPS Strategic Plan 2018–2020 to develop innovative responses to young adults. However, policies on older prisoners and LGBT prisoners remain unpublished. No policy reference to other protected groups e.g. foreign nationals or those with disabilities.
S32.1 Women who offend Mixed While the number of female committals has decreased, there has been an increase in daily female population with women’s prisons consistently overcrowded in 2018. Necessary actions identified in published strategies have not been fully implemented. However, IPS/Probation Joint Strategic Plan 2018–20 commits to the development of further gender- specific alternatives to imprisonment which is positive.
S33 Parole system No change No further legislative progress on the Parole Bill 2016, which aims to place the Parole Board on a statutory footing.
S34 Reintegration No change No progress made on the establishment of a reintegration policy. No review or expansion of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016.
S35 Inter-agency coordination Progress The establishment of the Interagency Group for a Fairer and Safer Ireland and the publication of their first report in 2018 is a positive cross-departmental initiative.
IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2019 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

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