Irish Penal Reform Trust

IPRT Submission to the 70th Pre-Sessional Working Group of the CESCR

7th January 2022

This is the Irish Penal Reform Trust’s first submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and is presented in respect of Ireland’s Fourth periodic report submitted by Ireland under articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant (E/C.12/IRL/4) published 25 August 2021.

This submission makes the overarching point that Ireland is over-reliant on imprisonment as a response to social issues and socio-economic disadvantage. The prison population is characterised by poverty, poor health, mental illness, addictions, disability, trauma and homelessness. 76% of sentenced committals to prison in 2019 were for sentences of less than 12 months1 and for offences more commonly associated with socio-economic disadvantage. For example, 32% of sentenced female prisoners in 2020 were in prison for theft and related offences.

Children in detention schools also have disproportionate experience of adversities. In 2019, 41% of young people in detention had a mental health need; Traveller children comprised 19% of children in detention; 23% of the children had a diagnosed learning disability; and 31% had experienced the loss of a parent.

Ireland must meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in respect of people in prison and children in child detention schools, who are particularly vulnerable groups.

This submission accesses prevailing issues under Articles: 3 (Gender Equality), 6 (Right to Work) 7 (Right to Just and Favourable Conditions of Work), 10 (Protection of the Family), 11 (Right to Adequate Standard of Living), 12 (Right to Physical and Mental Health), and 13 (Right to Education).

The two priority issues outlined by IPRT in this submission are as follows:

  1. Ireland is not meeting its obligations under Article 12 regarding the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including men and women in prison. This situation has worsened during the pandemic.
  2. The treatment of mentally ill prisoners has been described as one of the “most pressing issues within Irish prisons, according to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). Ireland is currently “not meeting its obligations to ensure adequate healthcare provision for mentally ill prisoners” and this must be addressed “as a matter of extreme urgency”, according to the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Restrictions imposed on some mentally ill prisoners “amount to inhuman and degrading treatment”.


Read the full submission here or download it below.

The State report, the NHRI (IHREC) report, and submissions by other civil society organisations are on the OHCHR website here.

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