11th May 2023
Irish Penal Reform Trust notes the publication on 11 May 2023 by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health of the Health Needs Assessment (HNA) for the Irish Prison Service.
The call for the health needs assessment was raised in IPRT’s Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) report 2020 and 2022 report after numerous previously stated timelines for completion and publication of the assessment had been missed.
While the delay has been regrettable, it is also disappointing to see the report recommended that responsibility for healthcare needs in prisons should remain with the Irish Prison Service (IPS). IPRT believe the responsibility should have been transferred to the HSE.
The publication of the report was covered in the Irish Examiner. Some of the points included in the report are;
There are “significant concerns” among prison bosses and specialist psychiatrists that the new Central Hospital Mental will not be able to meet the demand from prisoners requiring therapeutic intervention, according to a Government-commissioned report.
The report said keeping these acutely ill people in prison jeopardised the safety of staff managing them.
IPS health staff struggle to get local community services to take responsibility for homeless people due to be released from prison, describing the services as having a “hands off approach” to homeless people suffering from poor mental health;
About half of the prison population may be using, or seeking to use, illegal drugs, with the number “much higher” in some prisons;
The “majority” of prisoners with an addiction problem also have significant mental health difficulties.
Of the 60 recommendations set out within the HNA Report, 31 are made for strengthening delivery of IPS healthcare services whereas 29 are made for improved governance in IPS healthcare services.
With regard to prisoner mental health care and addiction issues, the HNA Report makes recommendations for improvements in these areas which should complement those made in September 2022 by the High Level Task Force to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those who come into contact with the criminal justice sector (HLTF).
As recommended by IPRT in PIPS 2022, following this publication of the prison health needs assessment report, an action plan based on its recommendations should be developed, resourced, and implemented.