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Prisoners with Disabilities in Ireland Face Human Rights Issues

A man in jail - captive behind bars

Prisoners with disabilities face problems within the Irish prison system, including limited availability of accessibility aids, isolation in cells and limited communication with family members, a new report has found. reports.

Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Prison was commissioned by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT). It addresses the experiences of prisoners with all forms of disability, including physical and/or mobility, psychosocial (mental health) disabilities, intellectual and/or learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries, hearing problems, and visual disability. According to IPRT executive director, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, prisoners with disabilities face “significant difficulties navigating prison services”.

“Since Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2018, it is incumbent upon the State to ensure that the rights of prisoners with disabilities are met. However, our report highlights that prisoners face widespread discrimination and human rights violations, which greatly affect their ability to participate fully and equally in prison life,” Ms Ní Chinnéide explained.

She noted that people with disabilities in prison must have access to the entire physical environment on an equal basis with other prisoners. However, the report emphasised that there was “limited understanding of disability rights within the prison population”.

“Indeed, there was little knowledge among the prisoners that they had rights related to their disability – for instance, the right to reasonable accommodation under equality legislation,” it noted.

The report highlighted incidences were prisoners had been confined to their cells because, for example, they could not navigate the steps in a prison.

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