Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

32: Cohorts of prisoners at risk of discrimination (2019)

Standard 32:

Management in the prison system takes a proactive approach towards protecting anyone who is at risk of discrimination due to their age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or other.


Some prisoners and staff are at increased risk of discrimination. The IPS should proactively take steps against any form of discrimination experienced by prisoners or prison staff. The Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty places a legal obligation on public bodies to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and protect the human rights of both service users and staff.[526]

Current context:

In 2018, the IPS, in conjunction with the IHREC, piloted a project to address specific human rights and equality issues for women in prison.[527] Working groups were established in Limerick (female) Prison and the Dóchas Centre. These consisted of representation from women in prison and prison staff. The purpose of these groups was to develop an action plan on the implementation of the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty.

There have been many progressive developments in supporting Travellers in the prison system, including the IPS’s continued work on the rollout of an ethnic identifier.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 32

Indicator S32.1: Progress towards implementation of the Public Sector Duty under Section 42 of the Human Rights and Equality Act across the prison system.

The IPS has continued its work on the implementation of the Public Sector Duty. This includes the development of a ‘women in prison’ project, which will feed into the IPS and IHREC strategies for 2019–2021. [528]

Indicator S32.2: Progress on implementation of strategies for cohorts of prisoners at risk of discrimination.

Older people: There is no published strategy on older people in prison. However, it is reported that an older persons unit is in development.[529]

Young adults: There is no published strategy for young adults. However, priority ISM referral pathways to the Probation and Psychology Services are in place for 18–24 year olds.[530]

People with disabilities or other protected characteristic: There is no published strategy for people with disabilities in detention. IPRT will publish a research report on this issue in late 2019.

LGBT people: In November 2018, the Department of Justice and Equality held a public consultation on the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy. The IPS is involved in the development of this strategy.[531] Potential actions may include: staff training, prisoner peer support, LGBT specific healthcare provision and accommodation and placement policies.

Travellers: The IPS has introduced an ethnic identifier on the Prisoner Information Management System. Pavee Point and other NGOs worked in partnership with the IPS to develop and deliver training in ethnic identification. A nationwide census event was carried out in December 2018. The resulting data will be used to inform better service planning.[533]

In 2018, funding for the Travellers in Prison Initiative (TPI)[534] was continued. The TPI works with Traveller groups to develop an effective approach to working with families of prisoners. In 2018, research was undertaken by independent researchers on a feasibility study into the support and advocacy programme for Traveller women in prison and post-release.

In 2019, the IPS has agreed to fund a qualification in mediation for prisoners in Castlerea Prison. This pilot project represents IPS working in partnership with the Education and Training Board, the Traveller Mediation Service and the Mediation Institute of Ireland, Maynooth University.[535]

Foreign nationals in prison: This group has significant challenges including language and cultural barriers in accessing treatment. However there appears to be no discrete strategy for this cohort.


There has been much positive progress relating to the implementation of the Public Sector Duty, particularly with the women in prisons project. Processes and learnings from this project could be replicated and applied to other groups at risk of discrimination. There has also been significant work carried out throughout the year to support Travellers in the prison system. Further work needs to be done on supporting the need of other cohorts such as foreign prisoners and persons with disabilities.

Status of Standard 32: Mixed

Actions required:

Action 32.1: All groups at risk of discrimination in prison, as outlined above, should have discrete strategies as part of a broader equality, diversity and inclusion strategy in order to fully realise their rights.


Irish Penal Reform Trust


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