13th September 2021
The Irish Prison Service is carrying out a public consultation as part of a review of the Prison Rules 2007. You can make a submission to the consultation until 5pm on 30th September 2021. Details on making a submission are on the Department of Justice website.
To support interested parties in making their submissions, IPRT hosted an informal online meeting on Monday 13th September, 1pm - 2pm. The meeting discussed the scope of the review, key areas for reform, and how to make effective submissions.
We were joined by prison expert and author of the book on prison law in Ireland, Professor Mary Rogan. Professor Rogan discussed the basic principles she would like to see included in the Rules, and assessed various sections which could be removed or amended to better protect the rights of people in custody, noting that the provisions of the Rules should act as starting points to develop on rather than ultimate targets to meet.
We also welcomed additional contributions during the session, including from those with experience of accessing rights in prison.
Areas of concern raised by attendees included access to healthcare, sufficient staffing, safeguarding access to family contact (calls and visits), separation, as well as a focus on the positive obligations of the Irish Prison Service. Based on an in-meeting poll, attendees felt that there is not sufficient understanding of the Prison Rules 2007 among people in prison or members of the public.
Earlier this year, IPRT and the Irish Criminal Bar Association hosted a webinar on the Prison Rules: Current Impact and Opportunities for Reform. If you wish to make a submission to the consultation, you may find this webinar useful. You can watch it online here.
The Rules set out the minimum rules and regulations on all aspects of life in prisons in Ireland, including: admission, accommodation, visiting rights, health, discipline, education, etc. Much of the daily operation of prisons is guided by the Prison Rules. (They are available here. IPRT's Know Your Rights booklet is a helpful Plain English guide.)
This is the first time there has been a full update of the Prison Rules 2007 since they were created 14 years ago. This is an exciting opportunity to strengthen the protection they offer to prisoners.
We expect the focus of IPRT’s submission to include: the use of separation (limits, safeguards, and data collection); complaints (duties of prison staff, avenues of complaint); oversight of prisons (by agreed prison monitors); contact with the outside world (including visits and Rule 44 letters); among other areas. Our submission will also focus on the duty of the Irish Prison Service to provide an explanation of prisoner's entitlements, obligations and privileges in a language and/or format they can understand.