Internal report reveals overcrowding and verbal abuse at women’s prison
Inmates in the State’s largest women’s prison are subjected to chronic overcrowding, xenophobic and threatening abuse, and find it next to impossible to book visits, including with their children, according to an internal report seen by the Irish Examiner.
The report into the Dóchas Centre in the Mountjoy campus is scathing of conditions in the prison following changes that were made last year.
Among the criticisms in the chaplain’s report were:
- Overcrowding, with between 130 and 150 inmates being regularly detained in a facility designed for 105. In one instance, five women were forced to share a “small makeshift bedroom”;
- Out-of-cell time went from 11 hours and 10 minutes to seven hours and 35 minutes, a decrease of 32%. According to the chaplain’s report: “This reduction in freedoms coincided with the worst-ever period of overcrowding.”;
- Complaints made to the chaplain from women about verbal abuse, xenophobic remarks, threatening language, and pointed “exclusion/favouritism of others”. The report noted that these incidents are attributed to “a small number of staff” and not the vast majority, stating: “In most cases, the women involved did not feel safe to make complaints in writing to the governor for fear of further penalisation from the staff involved.”;
- Next to impossible for the women inmates to book family visits, including with their children;
- Inadequate provision of clothing for women who do not own their own clothes;
- Staff shortages that resulted in the inability to escort a prisoner to a care facility to visit a dying relative, the inability to escort a bereaved prisoner to a funeral home to view the remains of a loved one, and the cancellation of “neutral venue” visits at the last minute;
The report states that it is essential that a culture is fostered within the prison community whereby a vulnerable voice can be heard.
“The women are here as punishment; they are not here to be punished, and it is crucial that this awareness be at the forefront of our work, lest we leave prisoners further traumatised than when they arrived,” the report states.
The current chaplain’s report was requested by the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act, but was subject to delays of two months before being released.Learn more
The 2018 chaplain’s report was also received as part of the FOI request, but the criticism in that report was mild compared to the 2019 report.