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Rate of female self-harm in prisons still rising
IPRT executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide

14 Apr 2021 / justice Print

Rate of female self-harm in prisons still rising

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed a fall in the number of recorded cases of self-harm in prisons in Ireland in 2019.

But the organisation also described a continued rise in the rates of self-harm among female prisoners and people held on remand as “concerning”.

The IPRT was responding to Self-harm in Irish Prisons 2019: Third report from the Self-Harm Assessment and Data Analysis (SADA) Project, which found that episodes of self-harm had fallen by 25% compared with 2018.

Call for better conditions

The rate of female self-harm was 8.2 times higher than the rate among males, however, while the rate among prisoners on remand was 2.5 times higher than the comparable rate for sentenced prisoners.

More than one-third of individuals engaged in self-harm more than once during the year.

The IPRT said better prison conditions, increased out-of-cell time, consistent access to education and workshops, timely access to drug treatment, and strengthened family contact were all necessary to further support reductions in self-harm incidents in prison.

Urgency

It added that prison psychology services needed to restart on “at least their pre-COVID schedule” as a matter of urgency.

“The high rates of self-harm in prison underscore the need for increased use of alternatives, such as community-based sanctions and integrated community sentences, along with adequately resourced mental health services and trauma-informed models of care in prison,” said IPRT executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide (pictured).

Addictions

On female prisoners, she said the prevalence of mental illness, addictions and trauma was much higher among women in prison, and the courts were still sending too many women to prison on remand and on short sentences.

The IPRT said a new model of intervention planned for later this year should include targeted measures designed to meet the distinct needs of women in prison.

It also called for the 2020 report on self-harm to be published to help decision-making on restrictions in prisons as the pandemic response continues.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland