The executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Saoirse Brady has called for the more timely publication of reports into the deaths of prisoners in custody.
Under the present system it can take years before such reports are published, this should be changed, she told RTÉ radio’s News at One to ensure that lessons are learned and actions taken.
Ms Brady was responding in the wake of the announcement that Gardaí are treating the attack on a 34-year-old inmate at Mountjoy Prison who died in hospital last night as murder.
Robert O’Connor from Snowdrop Walk, Darndale in Dublin, was attacked in his cell on Friday evening and sustained serious head injuries.
This was a very rare occurrence in the Irish prison service, she said. When prisoners enter the system a risk and safety assessment was carried out where they were asked if they were aware of any threat against them.
In this case the prisoner did not indicate any knowledge of a threat, she said.
Prisoners who fear they are at risk are placed in a protective custody system where they are in their cell for 19 hours a day. Of the 575 prisoners in the protective system in April of this year, 563 were there at their own request, added Ms Brady.
The prison authorities do their best, she said, but it was important to ensure that protective custody did not become the de facto position.
Ms Brady said she would like to see a more timely system for the publication of reports into deaths in custody. Under the current process an investigation will be carried out and it was then up to the coroner to determine the cause of death.
Following that a report would be completed which would go to the Minister for Justice who can then decide when or if it should be published.