The Prisons Act 2007 makes provision for making rules for the good government of prison. They may provide for
- the duties and conduct of the governors and officers of a prison,
- classification and treatment of prisoners,
- provision of facilities and services to prisoners,
- acts which constitute a breach of prison discipline,
- remission of a portion of a prisoner’s sentence,
- the manner of publications of decisions of an Appeal Tribunal;
- the entry into a prison for the performance of functions of a member of An Garda Síochána; photographing and mentioning prisoners, taking fingerprints, palm prints and testing prisoners for intoxicants.
The former prison rules (1947) were in force of the General Prisons (Ireland) Act 1877..The Prison Rules were modernised in 2007. They have been amended on a number of occasions since. The rules are made under the authority of the Prisons Act 2007.
The Rules make provisions for reception and registration, treatment of prisoners, control, discipline and sanction, healthcare, education, training and chaplains. They make provision for the governance of prisons including powers and duties of the governors and prison officers.
Breach of prison rules may be challenged by way of judicial review. The courts are unlikely to intervene other than the most series of cases. The court are not likely to release a prisoner unless the breach of the rules is such as to endanger health or life or to subject him to inhuman or degrading treatment. It is not clear to what extent breach of the rules may be a ground for compensation. The English courts have not allowed compensation in such circumstances.
Reception and Registration
A person may not be committed to a prison unless there is a valid committal order, warrant or order of court authorising his arrest and detention. The prisoner is to be provided with a copy of it.
Detailed personal particulars of the prisoner are to be obtained and kept upon reception. A person who is committed or readmitted to a prison is to be facilitated informing family members. To ensure that he is free of prohibited articles, searches are to be carried on with due regard to decency, privacy and the dignity of the person searched. The search is to be by a person of same gender.
An inventory is to be kept of prisoner’s property which is taken into prison. It is to be recorded and retained. Prohibited articles may be used in evidence and dealt with in accordance with law.
Prohibited articles include things not duly listed and registered as prisoner’s property, things which are considered by the governor to present a threat to the maintenance of good order, safe.
Measurements, photographs, fingerprints and palm prints may be taken of prisoners on reception. Each prisoner is to be examined by a doctor on admission for the purpose of diagnosis of physical and mental conditions, determination of work capacity , noting of any medical conditions or injuries.
The governor of a prisoner or an officer acting on his behalf may give to a member of An Garda Síochána copies of photographs, measurements, fingerprints or palm prints or documents relating to testing of prisoners for intoxicants.
Each prisoner is to be informed on admission, the rights and privileges under the Prison Rules. Full copy of the rules is to be available to prisoner. An explanatory booklet is to be given to them.
On reception, the governor is to meet the prisoner and satisfy himself that the prisoner has been informed of and understands the rights and obligations under the Rules.
A prisoner who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment or detention other than life shall, on committal be informed of the due date for release calculated on the basis of, service of the sentence without remission, service of sentence with normal remission. Where there is an alteration, the prisoner is to be informed as soon as may be and given the reason.
A foreign national is to be provided with means of contacting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Representative in Ireland and subject to limitations as may be imposed, the national or international authorities whose principal object is to serve the interests of refugees or stateless persons or protect the civil and human rights of such persons.
A child, of less than twelve months of a female prisoner may be admitted and remain to breast feed until the child has reached that age. Same applies to a female prisoner who gives birth while in prison. The necessary requirements for the maintenance and care of the child shall be provided.
The Minister/Department of Justice is to certify that all cells and rooms intended for prisoner’s accommodation are, in respect of lighting, heating, ventilation and fittings, suitable for that purposes. The Minister may specify maximum number of persons who may be normally accommodated in cells or rooms, having regard to the lighting, heating, ventilation.
Provisions may be made for special accommodation. Prisoners may be temporarily accommodated other than in a certified cell, if the governor considers on reasonable grounds that exceptional circumstances exist that would warrant the prisoner concerned to be so accommodated.
A prisoner is obliged to maintain basic prison hygiene. There are provisions for housekeeping and in relation to maintenance of a healthy and safe environment.
A prisoner may, at the discretion of the governor, be allowed to wear his own clothing subject to conditions as to health, hygiene, and their condition. If he is not permitted to wear his own clothing, he is to be provided with standard prison clothing. In so far as reasonably practicable, sanitary and washing facilities are to be provided, in the prisoner’s cell or room. Each prisoner is to be issued with separate bedding adequate for warmth and health, with a mattress.
Food and drink are to be provided of sufficient quality and nutrition. Dietary practices of particular religious are to be accommodated.
Prisoners have duties in relation to personal cleanliness and hygiene. They are to be provided with basic toiletry articles, free of charge. They are to be permitted to take a hot shower or hot bath as often as reasonably practicable and may be required to take one at least once a week. Additional toiletry articles may be published.
Unless the prison doctor considers it necessary on health grounds, a prisoner’s hair shall not be cut, and a male prisoner shall not be required to or prevented from growing a moustache or beard, without his consent. The governor may require a prisoner to cover or restrain his hair at such times as are necessary for the maintenance of good health, hygiene or safety.
Prisoners may not smoke or have intoxicating liquor in their possession other than with the permission of the governor. They may not be in possession, of controlled drugs, other than in accordance with prescriptions issued by the prison doctor.
Each prisoner is to be allowed to spend a period of the day, as much time as is practicable and at the discretion of the prisoner, out of the cell and allowed to associate with other prisoners. He may be authorised to undertake authorised structured activity including work, vocational training, education, and programmes intended to increase the likelihood that he will not re-offend.
A convicted prisoner shall do work consisting of tasks necessary for the performance and operation of the prison. He may be directed to clean and sweep landings, yards and other parts of the building, unless certified unfit for work. He shall be eligible for a gratuity at a fixed rate for work which shall be credited to his account and given to the prisoner on release.
He may be permitted to use such part of the monies credited for the purchase of articles, with the governor’s consent. A prisoner may, participate in approved employment for approved persons and the approved person shall remunerate the prisoner at a rate no less favourably than would remunerate a non-prisoner. Approved employment is of a class or type approved by the Minister, provided by approved bodies. Earnings are to be treated similarly to the above.
A prisoner shall not be engaged in the enforcement or maintenance of discipline in a prison. A prisoner is to be entitled to healthcare services equivalent to that available to a medical cardholder. Female prisoners who are pregnant and likely to give birth in custody are to be allowed arrangements to give birth in a hospital outside the prison. No prisoner may be subjected to any experiment or trial of a product.
Provision should be made, in so far as is practicable for the prisoner’s preferred religious, spiritual or moral life. He should be permitted to have access to, religious books, items and materials relating to his religious faith. He may attend services in the prison as may be arranged by a chaplain or other approved person. He cannot be compelled to attend any religious service or to participate in any religious activity, unless he so wishes.
It is an offence for a prisoner to have unauthorised possession or use of mobile phones, including a component of such device by a prisoner. It is an offence to possess or use a mobile phone or supply such a device to a prisoner without permission of the governor.
The penalty for an offence on summary conviction is a fine not exceeding €5000 or for a term of imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both, or on indictment, a fine not exceeding €10,000 or imprisonment up to five years or both.