Irish Penal Reform Trust

RTÉ, Today with Claire Byrne: Central Mental Hospital

20th August 2021

Barry Lenihan reports on capacity issues facing the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), speaking to Professor Harry Kennedy and IPRT’s Molly Joyce.

Professor Kennedy noted that the hospital is over capacity, with facilities that are “unsafe”. He labels the situation as “dire” and notes that the hospital is currently in breach of its legal obligations as it cannot accept all patients sent there by the courts.

“You now have severely mentally ill people who go without treatment in a way that wouldn’t happen in the community, and you have people who are not nurses obliged to try and care for them. By the time people do get admitted, after very long waits, during which time they have been refusing medication because they lack insight, they are really really very severely ill by the time they come here. The busiest, the most acute, and the most severely ill units for severely mentally ill people are actually in the prisons, waiting to get into hospitals.”

The new CMH facility was due to open in 2020, it is now due to open by the end of 2021. Professor Kennedy predicts the new facility will be full within 3-5 years based on current trajectories.

Molly outlined the reality for many of the men and women in prison who have been clinically assessed as requiring treatment at the CMH who cannot be transferred due to capacity. Reflecting on the situation described by the CPT in its most recent report on Ireland, Molly noted:

“In one example, a man was lying naked in his cell, the cell smeared with faeces and puddles of urine on the floor. Staff only going in and opening the door to the cell in order to provide food. Mentally ill prisoners not being given showers or access to out of cell time.

“It also really highlighted, perhaps one of the things which was most striking, its concern that there was a rising number of mentally ill homeless people ending up in prison in Ireland. Simply on the basis that those people, because they are of no fixed abode, were not able to be accepted by any HSE community mental health services and so therefore when the court didn’t have anywhere else to send them, they send them to prison.”

Listen back to the segment here for more.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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