Inspector of Prisons
The Prisons Act provides for the appointment of an inspector of prisons. The inspector’s functions are to carry out regular inspections of prisons. He may enter any prison and obtain records and documents. He may bring issues of concern to the attention of the governor, the director general of the Irish Prison Service or the Minister as he considers appropriate.
The Minister for Justice appoints an inspector. The terms and conditions of office, including remuneration, are determined by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
There are provisions for resignation by the Inspector and removal for stated misbehaviour through ill-health or inability to perform functions. The general term of office is five years, and the Inspector is eligible for reappointment.
The Inspector is to carry out regular inspections of prisons. He may enter prisons and request and obtain records and documents.
During an investigation or arising from an investigation, the Inspector may bring any issues of concern to the notice of the governor, the Director-General of the Prison Service or the Minister as he considers appropriate.
The inspector may, or if required by the Minister shall, carry out an investigation of any matter arising out of the management or operation of a prison and submit a report, which shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Parts of the report may be redacted in relation to matters which would be prejudicial to the security of the prison or the State if disclosed.
The inspector does not have a role in investigating on or deciding on a complaint from a prisoner. However, he may examine the circumstances of a complaint in the exercise of his functions. Governors, prison officers, prison employees and prisoners must cooperate and comply with requests for information from the inspector in carrying out his or her functions.
The inspector prepares a report annually to the Minister annually on the performance of its functions and such other matters as may be directed by the Minister. The report shall in particular, address, in respect of each prison inspected.
The report must address in relation to each prisoner inspected,
- general management conditions,
- health and welfare of prisoners,
- conduct and effectiveness of prison officers and employees,
- compliance with national and economic international standards including prison rules,
- programs and facilitiesand participation by prisoners in them,
- security and discipline.
The report is to be laid before the Oireachtas. There is a provision for redaction.
Prison visiting committees were established by the Prisons Visiting Committees Act 1925. The duties and powers of visiting committees are specified by the Minister for Justice. The prisons Visiting Committees Order applies.
There has to be a visiting committee for each prison appointed by the Minister for Justice for terms not exceeding 3 years. Each visiting committee must appoint a chairman and make arrangements for regular attendance of their members at prisons for the purpose of carrying out duties. They should meet monthly.
Visiting committees visit prisons in respect of which they are appointed and may hear complaints which may be made to them by prisoners. The complaints may be heard in private. They are to report to the Minister on abuses, want of repair to the physical condition of the prison which may be urgently required and other matters which they consider expedient.
Powers of Visitors
Prison visitors may
- investigate reports received as to the physical or mental condition of a prisoner being likely to be injured by discipline or treatment to which he is subjected.
- inspect the diets of prisoners,
- cooperate with the governor in effecting classification of prisoners as may be authorised.
- assist the Minister for Justice in selection of library books
- inquire into the conditions of prison labour including whether employments are sufficient and of a kind suitable for preparing prisoners to earn their livelihood on release
- satisfy themselves as to the operation of the discharged prisoners aid scheme
- devote special attention to prisoners about to be discharged
- organise lectures and addresses