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Minister for Justice needs to ensure that action is taken to tackle prison safety and living conditions - O’Brien

30 May, 2011 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has described as “deeply worrying” the fact that the prison service failed to properly investigate the deaths of prisoners in custody.

Deputy O’Brien called for the recommendations contained in the report by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly to be addressed as soon as possible.

Speaking today Deputy O’Brien said:

“Sinn Féin supports Judge Reilly’s timetabled demands on prison governors to deal with substandard conditions and practices within the prison system. The Minister for Justice needs to ensure that these demands are maintained and met.

“It is not good enough in this day and age that the prison service doesn’t properly investigate the deaths of prisoners in custody. There is a need for suitable complaints and disciplinary procedures.

“Living conditions in prisons need to be reasonable. They should not be dirty, deplorable living spaces with broken windows or damaged equipment, like the circumstances that Judge Reilly reported on.

“Judge Reilly’s call for a timetable for the elimination of overcrowding could be helped by the Minister for Justice moving as quickly as possible to ensure that the measures included in the Fines Bill as alternatives to prison are put into practice.

“Sinn Féin strongly welcomes any move towards drug-free support areas in all prisons and this needs to be a priority for the Minister.

“We have also called for the introduction of an Ombudsman for Prisoners, who in addition to the current powers of the independent Prison Inspector would also be empowered to investigate and adjudicate prisoner complaints and investigate deaths in custody.”

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