It is good to read that the Council of Europe’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has placed Ireland on a list of countries which it intends to inspect in 2010. The last visit of the CPT was in 2006 and before that the Committee visited in 2002.
On its last visit, the CPT issued a report which criticised overcrowding and a culture of violence in some of the state’s prisons. Many of these issues have not been alleviated since and, in the case of Mountjoy in particular, have actually got worse as the Inspector of Prison’s Report has made clear.
It is to be hoped that the imminent visits will encourage penal authorities to take action to address the worst elements of the penal estate as quickly as possible. More consequential, however, would be the development of a long-term plan to reduce the levels of imprisonment in Ireland and to re-focus our system of punishment away from custodial sentences.
It is also to be hoped that the CPT will issue its report on its visit as speedily as possible.
We know what needs to be done; we just need to act speedily and do it.