) irishtimes.com - Inmates and staff at women’s prison in ‘inappropriate relationships’ - Wed Mar 13 09:47:12 GMT 2019

Inmates and staff at women’s prison in ‘inappropriate relationships’

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 10:10

A new report published by the Department of Justice refers to allegations of “inappropriate relationships” between some women inmates at the Dóchas women’s prison in Dublin “and a small number of male staff”.

The allegations are contained in an annual report for 2017 by the Visiting Committee for the State’s only dedicated women’s prison, on the Mountjoy campus.

“Allegations have come to our attention of inappropriate relationships between some women and a small number of male staff,” the report states.

On allegations against Dóchas staff, the authors state that “if it is found that the behaviour of any prison officer, male or female, towards these women does not measure up to the highest professional standards demanded there is a clear duty on management, the Prison Service or other appropriate agency to take the necessary action”.

Pointing out that the female inmates at Dóchas “are among the most vulnerable cohort in society”, the authors state that “if the appropriate action is not taken or is inadequate, something is radically wrong”.

The authors state that where an allegation of inappropriate conduct is made against prison staff “we believe that as a matter of course these investigations should be conducted by external investigators who are unconnected with the prison service”.

The publication of the report follows the Irish Prison Service launching a investigation in November 2017 into suspicions that 34-year-old so-called ‘Scissor Sister’ Charlotte Mulhall was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

Mulhall was jailed along with her sister Linda for killing their mother’s partner, Kenyan Farah Swaleh Noor, in 2005.

Elsewhere in the report, the authors criticise the continued over-crowding at the Dóchas centre.

They state that “the numbers in Dóchas continue to rise and have reached well into the 130s during 2017. With a total capacity of 105, this is unacceptable over-crowding and a very serious strain on resources. It forces ‘doubling-up’, the use of bunk beds in small rooms and the use of recreation rooms as sleeping quarters often with four beds to a room”.

“Management have tried to alleviate the worst consequences of this problem. It remains unresolved and leads to disruption, behavioural problems and serious discontent.”

The authors of the report also say Dóchas requires urgent works to the building stating that the centre is in need of an urgent upgrade.

They say “it continues to be a matter of concern that despite constant monitoring, drugs remain a serious problem within Dóchas”.

“We are aware that this is pervasive across the prison system. We fully understand that the problem of supply is difficult to monitor but we would urge that more resources are made available to curb this on-going and very serious issue.”

On the allegations of inappropriate relationships between women prisoners and a small number of male staff at Dóchas, a spokesman for the Prison Officers Association (POA) said that it is POA policy not to make any comment on such matters where disciplinary processes may be ongoing.

The Irish Prison Service has been asked to comment on the contents of the Visiting Committee report.