Large numbers of people in prison with mental health problems and without adequate support is one of the issues raised when Ireland appears before a UN commission this week to be questioned about its human rights record.
Nearly a third of the prison population was on the waiting list for psychological service in prison in July 2021, others were waiting in places at the Central Psychiatric Hospital and there are concerns about the Covid-19 restrictions, including no prison visits for periods and long periods in prison. isolation, has exacerbated mental health problems, according to the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT).
The number of children who physically visited an adult in prison between 2020 and 2021 fell by 80 percent – from 11,079 to 2,238. health of children and parents.
The continued failure to ratify a major international human rights treaty; increased number of inmates, currently around 4,100 as community service is underutilized; prison conditions, including the use of solitary confinement and lack of private toilet facilities; no open prison for women and the over-representation of travelers in the Irish prison population are some of the other concerns of the IPRT.
It will ask the UN Human Rights Committee to question state officials on these issues as part of the fifth state review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
IPRT Executive Director Saoirse Brady and representatives of other civil society organizations will meet the committee Monday before the review in a formal private session in Geneva.
‘Urgent investment’ needed
In advance, Ms Brady said the prevalence of people in prison with serious mental illness is estimated to be four times that of the general population.
“Jail is not the right place for someone with a serious mental illness,” she said. “We urgently need investment in mental health support and a robust distraction system.”
A high-level task force set up in 2021 to examine the mental health and addiction challenges faced by those in contact with the criminal justice system should publish its findings and implementation plan “promptly,” she urged.
In its submission to the committee, the IPRT said Ireland, with one psychologist for every 257 people in prison, is “nearly close” to the human rights norm of one psychologist for every 150 inmates.
The IPRT criticized the “glacial” pace at which Ireland has ratified an international human rights convention (the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture – OPCAT) that would provide an independent and transparent monitoring mechanism for people in all forms of detention. The treaty, which Ireland signed in 2007, should be ratified without delay, it insisted.
Other concerns include nearly half of inmates having to use the toilet in front of another inmate and sharing cells.
It emphasizes the need for faster reporting of investigations into deaths in custody and for them to be published. Of the 100 deaths in custody between 2010 and October 1, 2020, 17 were suicide deaths and 35 deaths were pending investigations, including deaths dating back to 2013.