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Minister Flanagan publishes the Office of the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report for 2015/2016

This is the first Annual Report for the Office of the Inspector of Prisons published since the death of Judge Michael Reilly, R.I.P. The report gives an overview of some of the work done and reforms undertaken in the Irish Prison Service since Judge Reilly was appointed as the Inspector of Prisons in January 2008.

The Office of the Inspector of Prisons is a statutory independent office established under the Prisons Act, 2007. The Inspector's key role is to carry out regular inspections of prisons and to submit an Annual Report to the Minister. The Inspector may also investigate any matter arising out of the management or operation of a prison and submit a report on any such investigation.

Following the death of Judge Reilly, Helen Casey was appointed to continue the work of the office on an interim basis. The Public Appointment Service are currently running a Top Level Appointment Competition to identify a new Inspector of Prisons.

Speaking on publication, Minister Flanagan said, "I welcome the publication of the Annual Report of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons. As you can see from the report, Judge Reilly provided an invaluable independent and reforming oversight of our prisons and the legacy he has left is one that will live long."

The Minister went on to say that "I am pleased that the report acknowledges a lot of the reforms and improvements made in the Irish Prison Service in recent years such as: the transferring of responsibility for juvenile offenders to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and subsequent decommissioning of St. Patrick’s Institution; the newly built Cork Prison; improvements in the prison estate; the reduction in the prison population and the virtual elimination of slopping out.

However, while much of the report is positive, issues of concern remain which include the level of prisoners presenting with mental health issues; the number of prisoners on restricted regimes and deficiencies in the line management structure.”

Minister Flanagan said, "The Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Mr Michael Donnellan and I are committed to addressing these areas of concern and I am pleased to say that progress is being made. In June this year, I introduced a Statutory Instrument to amend the Prison Rules 2007, in order to implement the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners - known as the ‘Mandela Rules’, in respect of the issue of restricted regimes and solitary confinement.

Sustained efforts are required and are being made, to address long term structural issues and the continued focus & engagement with the Office of the Inspector is welcome, to ensure that any deficiencies identified in past and future reports will be fully addressed.”