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The prison as a corrective facility in any society has a history of its own. Prison history in many nations attracts controversy and will always be kept secret. Ireland's is no exclusion. This essay attempts to describe the development of prisoner rights in Ireland. This study will cover the purpose of prisoner rights and the impact these rights have on delivery of the Irish Prison Service.
It is important to understand that as prisons exist as corrective facilities in the society, the prisoners also have rights. Modern societies have invested heavily in addressing these rights with an aim of reducing the overall cost of prisoner correction. Basic systems of justice in many nations provide prisoners with avenues of redress and appeal. The governments of such nations go to great lengths to employ lawyers and other legal practitioners who can argue on behalf of prisoners during such like appeals. The prisoners are normally charged with the duty of correction or a legally defined separation from the society. The under working of these systems is technical in many cases and carries with it legal undertakings that must be well addressed to ensure that the whole system is well effected.
One of the most sensitive areas of any prison system the world over touches on the issues of prisoner rights. It therefore is not enough to understand these prisoner rights, but they must be addressed to ensure that the prisoner is not violated. There has been a long known history of how conflicting these prisoner rights can become. A very recent case in history involved the Guantanamo bay prisoner saga. The prison officer who were from the US army handling the prisoners at this facility were on the spot being accused for the violation of prisoner rights. This resulted from the secret filming done by one of the soldiers which apparently got its way out of the prison. This facility has long since been closed down and a number of army officers put under disciplinary action and the prisoners relocated. Ireland's crime rate is one of the highest in Europe resulting in a conviction ratio of 90 for every 100000 people. Officer to prisoner ratio is one of the highest across Europe. Ireland's prison system founded in 1854 remains one of the most elaborate and expensive in that part of the world.
One of the fundamental issues of the Irish prison system is the need to help the prisoner in understanding that they have the key to their correction while the prison offers a place for that. This system burdens the prisoner to rectify their demeanor. This rectification is supposed to affect the prisoner physically, mentally and morally.
Like a number of other prison systems around the world the Irish prison system encourages prisoners to qualify for parole based on their record of reform within the prison facility. A convict is progressively monitored as they remain within the prison and based on their ability to practically show reformation, they are eligible for parole or have their sentences reduced or done away with.
Irish prisoners are entitled to a number of rights. These rights help to determine a prisoner's internal conduct and their association with the community. These rights touch on privacy, bodily integrity, food, education and employment among others. Ireland prisoner has a right of mothers also called at the breast' allowing a breast feeding mother to serve with the child who are breastfeeding if they is no immediate guardian after conviction and sentencing.
Irish prisoner rights also include rights to privacy, association, property and freedom of religion.
The Irish prison system is conventionally British. The justice system that includes the courts endevour the convicts into the prison systems. Northern Ireland prison systems have a long and active history especially so considering the past activities by political radical groups like Sinn Fein.
Within any country, prison services have remained a sensitive matter of consideration. Lately prisoner rights have equally been considered a very sensitive issue. This is more so because of the fact that society is becoming more legally liberal being empowered through constitutional implementations. Based on this prisoner rights continue to undergo reforms some of which stem from government whereas others arise from civil rights agitation and activism.
Ireland's prisoner rights development has also undergone development. This has been mostly as a result of continued civic education and legal empowerment together with human rights activism. The latter has played a major role in the transformation of society rights which also includes prisoners. Many human rights activist groups in various nations including Ireland have remained critical especially so in the area of prisoner rights. This has caused most nations including Ireland to develop a more inclusive prison system covering an elaborate area of prisoner rights. Capitalistic governments have been seen as most liberal in terms of prisoner rights as compared to the socialist or communist governments which have been known to be oppressive and record higher incidences of prisoner rights violations.
Development of prisoner rights in Ireland
Prison systems can only run effectively if the prison service officers understand the prisoner rights. This can be achieved through continued sensitization on legal matters including prisoner rights both for the prisoner and officers especially in the area of human rights (Amnesty International Ireland 2010). Irish prison officers are among the highest paid in the world. In providing this kind of remuneration package it is envisaged that these officers will in turn offer highly professional services and thereby contribute to the overall correction process of any convict.
This approach to prisoner rights development helps to ensure that the correction process attains its most desired effect in a convict's life while rebuilding their esteem as they prepare to be released into the society. The challenge resulting from this approach has been the high cost of investment.
The probation and welfare service in Ireland also serves as an alternative to the custody approach. The probation and welfare services (PWS) supervise thousands of offenders sentenced to community service which is a non custodial sentence. The PWS helps to assert prisoner rights farther by allowing them to join mainstream employment based on training they undergo during their time in prison.
Importance and purpose of prisoner rights
While understanding the prisoner rights, the prison officers become effective agents in the corrective process for every convict who goes through the Irish prison system (O'Mahony 2001, p. 126). The fact that a prisoner is held responsible for their own correction, these rights put the prisoner in a position where they understand that they are not in any way underprivileged and therefore have the need to make an effort based on the rights to reform.
Impact of prisoner rights on the delivery of service in Irish prisons.
The PWS has remained instrumental in that it continues to play a major role in the planned correction of offenders through provision community oriented projects (Prisoner Rights in Ireland 2010). Through these projects former prisoners have a chance to give back to the community in terms of what they were trained for during their custodial period.
The Irish prison system stands out as one of those where a convict is granted the chance to exercise their rights as part of their correction (Mellet 2010). By so doing the Irish Prison system has enabled the prisoners to live a near normal life after their custodial and non custodial sentences. This has been achieved based on the understanding that as prisoners they also have rights just as any other person to ensure character reform. However this process has come with continued development in many prison service areas among them the development of prisoner rights aimed at achieving the desired levels of correction in the lives of former prisoners. The Irish Prison Service is one of the most elaborate prison services. The list of prisoner rights is determined during court proceedings at the time of conviction. Each prisoner is granted rights based on the court's overall evaluation of the offence for which they have been convicted. This enables the prisoner to chart their own way of reforming. This process will also reduced or the prisoner qualified for parole based on their own determination to reform. The prison welfare service ensures the prisoners are integrated effectively back into the society after completion of their custodial sentence.
It therefore becomes vital to note that prison services in Ireland have continued to develop especially as concerns prisoner rights and this result into a more effective corrective mechanism. This is likely to be of benefit to the prisoner and the community from which they have been separated for the period of their custodial sentence.