14th October 2021
The Action for Children and Families of Prisoners Network, co-chaired by IPRT, made a submission* to the consultation on the review of the Prison Rules 2007, with a specific focus on sections that relate to the priority work areas of the Network. Below is a brief overview of the issues covered in the submission.
Rules Pertaining to Mothers and Babies in Custody
While prison should only be used as a sanction of last resort, particularly for women who are pregnant or have young babies, in circumstances where a mother ends up in custody with her baby, they should only be accommodated in a unit specifically for mothers and babies and that Rule 17 is expanded to include this.
Rules Pertaining to Letters
The Network recommends that Rule 43 (1), concerning sending and receiving letters, be updated to include a fixed standard timeline for distributing post and parcels. In-person visits and phone calls are short in duration, and it is often difficult for family members to get across all of the information they wish to share in such a short space of time. Letters are key to addressing this issue as there are no limits on the amount of information that can be transferred through letters between people in prison and their family members.
Rules Pertaining to Phone Calls
The Network recommends the removal of language from Rule 46 (1) which provides prison management with the power to allow a prisoner to communicate via telephone with a member of his or her family – “the Governor may permit” and “as the Governor shall determine”.
Family contact is a fundamental right. People in prison should be able to exercise their right to family contact regardless of “availability of facilities” and this right should not be subject to “reasonable limitations as the Governor may impose”. To this end, the Network also advocate for the removal of such language throughout Rule 46.
In accordance with Public Sector Duty, amendments to the Rules around telephone calls should reflect the specific needs of cohorts at risk of discrimination. For example, foreign national prisoners with family members abroad should be entitled in the Prison Rules to additional phone calls as a supplement for the lack of in-person visits.
Rules Pertaining to Visits
The Network are aware that as visits recommence with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, people in prison are allowed no more than two individuals per visit with a maximum of one child. The Network acknowledge the challenges surrounding infection control but strongly recommends that this number is increased immediately and in line with the practices adopted in similar settings outside of prison (such as nursing homes). To safeguard people’s future entitlements, the Network recommends a number of additions/amendments to Rule 35 pertaining to visits.
The Network also recommends improvements to Rule 36, which balance the safety and security of the IPS with the rights of people in prison and their children and families. This includes:
Read the submission here.
Visit the Action for Children and Families of Prisoners website for more information on its work: actionforfamilies.ie
* The submission was informed by several individual Network members. While IPRT co-chairs the Network, this submission was made on behalf of the Network and not IPRT.