Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

5: Minimum prison security settings

Standard 5:

Prisoners are detained in the least restrictive prison security settings as determined through risk assessment.

Rationale:

Having access to less restrictive prison security settings is important as it provides for the ‘normalisation’ principle [240] and thus reduces the risk of institutionalisation, making the transition to life on the outside easier. [241]

Current context:

The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality (2018) recommended as follows:

There is a need for different mixes of restriction and supervision. Construction of future prisons should be done in a flexible manner, organised around self-contained units. Regimes should be programme-driven and open to the possibilities of individual change. Future infrastructural development within the prison system should involve the use of more innovative, community-based, semi-open facilities, avoiding the one-size- fits-all model. [242]

While there are currently two open prisons in Ireland, there are also some parts of the prison estate that operate a lower security regime. These include the Grove Unit in Castlerea Prison.

The Irish Prison Service has highlighted in its Capital Plan a need to “upgrade existing and develop a small number of new open, semi-open or low security centres in appropriate locations to supplement the minimal existing low-security capacity”. [243]

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 5

Indicator S5.1: the number of prisoners accommodated in low-security settings: In May 2018, 235 prisoners out of a total of 3,992 prisoners in custody were accommodated in low-security prisons. [244] Information provided by the Irish Prison Service shows that on the same date, a further 42 individuals were in the Grove Unit in Castlerea Prison, which is a low-security regime within a medium-security prison.[245]

Actions required:

Action 5.1: The Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Prison Service should increase the number of prisoners having access to less restrictive prison settings.

References:

IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust

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