Self-harm figures surge at St Patrick's
on 13/09/2013 00:00:00
The 2012 report said that a semi-basement area, known as The Unit, was an "oppressive place with little daylight".
The condemned Dublin prison, set for closure, houses inmates aged 17-20. The committee said they had a "major concern" at the lack of staff, particularly in workshops and gyms.
The report of the St Patrick's Visiting Committee was one of six such reports published yesterday by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
The St Patrick's report said there were 45 self-harm incidents in 2012, 24 more than 2011.
The report expressed concern that "many inmates" are under threat from other prisoners and that the C3 section houses those on protection.
"Inmates on protection are generally locked up for 23 hours per day, with the exception of time in classrooms," it read.
"It is very regrettable that often the victims are the ones to suffer this penalty."
The committee was concerned at conditions in an area known as The Unit, a semi-basement section with 14 cells and two special observation cells.
"The Unit houses inmates who for various reasons cannot be allowed to mix with other inmates. It is an oppressive place with little daylight."
The committee said they had a "major concern" at the lack of staff, particularly to cover workshops and gyms, caused by staff not turning up and court escort duties.
"Because of the age profile of the inmates, any lack of planned activity and exercise can lead to frustration, tension, and sometimes violence. This situation is unacceptable to the committee and needs to be rectified."
The report said during 2012 all 16-year-olds were transferred to Oberstown Detention Centre and that 17-year-olds would follow.
All prisoners in St Patrick's will transfer to Wheatfield Prison by the end of the year, with 17-year-olds transferring to Oberstown later.
The Mountjoy visiting committee raised concerns at the use of 23-hour lock-up as a default option for punishment. It said there had been progress in talks with the governor, Ned Whelan.
"A prisoner locked up like this doing his daily toilet in a little pan with often only one opportunity to empty it, is in the very least inhumane and must end in 2013."
It commended the phased refurbishment of all cells in Mountjoy, involving the installation of proper toilets and wash basins.
The other reports were generally complementary, including the report of the Wheatfield committee, which praised the kitchen, education, training and exercise facilities there.