Know Your Rights - Your Rights As A Prisoner

The information on this website is designed to help you to better know and understand the rights someone has while they are in prison. This website is an interactive version of IPRT and ICCL's 'Know Your Rights - Your Rights as a Prisoner' booklet.

The booklet is available for download in different formats by clicking the orange button.

Please don’t be put off by the amount of information on this website. You can read and/or print just the sections that are important to you. We have done our best to write and present this information as clearly as we can, and we start below by explaining some of the key words used on this website.

You can always click back to the 'Key Words' section if you come across a word you do not understand. We used Plain English Guidelines to help as many people as possible understand the information.

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Different Types Of Prisoners

This page contains all of the information about different types of prisoners. To read about a specific type of prisoner, you can click on the headers on the left-hand side.

Everyone in prison who comes into contact with you must follow the Prison Rules, 2007–2020. We number the rules we mention so you can look them up if you need to.

Remand Prisoners

What does being ‘on remand’ mean?

If you are charged with an offence and you are in prison waiting for your trial, then you are ‘on remand’. You can be remanded in custody or released on bail.

The decision to remand you in custody depends on a number of things, including:

  • the type of offence you are charged with
  • the evidence in support of the charge
  • your previous history of turning up at court
  • your previous behaviour while on bail (if you ever were)
  • whether or not you are awaiting trial for other offences
  • whether or not there is evidence that witnesses will be intimidated while you are awaiting trial
  • whether or not a senior Garda officer believes that you need to be remanded in custody to prevent a serious offence being committed.

The District Court can remand you in prison for up to eight days – no more – on your first appearance at the court.

On your second appearance, you can be remanded for a further 15 days or for 16 to 30 days if you and your legal advisor agree.

Your rights as a remand prisoner are not the same as sentenced prisoners in relation to visits. There is further information on this below.

If I’m on remand, will I be placed with convicted prisoners?

This depends on what prison you are sent to on remand. The Minister has to, as far as it is possible, separate remand prisoners from sentenced prisoners. (Rule 71) This is to maintain the safety of prisoners and staff and to protect the human rights of prisoners as far as possible.

If you are a male remand prisoner in Dublin, you may be sent to Cloverhill prison. It is the only prison in Ireland which is just for remand prisoners. If you live outside Dublin, then you will be remanded in the nearest prison to you and you might have to share a cell with sentenced prisoners.

What right to visits do I have as a remand prisoner?

Remand prisoners have the right to a 15-minute-long ordinary visit each day, for up to six days of the week. A prisoner can name up to eight people on their visitor panel each month. Once you have nominated a person, they can book an appointment to visit you through the prison.

Can I have access to private healthcare as a remand prisoner?

Yes. Prisoners who have not yet been convicted can, with the permission of the Governor, access the services of a doctor or dentist other than the prison doctor or dentist.

The Governor must agree that there is a real medical need for the medical professional to visit the prison. (Rule 73)

If you are allowed to receive private healthcare, you will have to pay any expenses from the visit of the doctor or dentist to the prison. If you agree, the Governor can pay these expenses out of any money belonging to you which was kept by the Governor for safe keeping after you were admitted to prison. (Rule 74)

What type of regime will I have access to on remand?

Remand prisoners may, with the agreement of the Governor, take part in authorised structured activities, like education or work, but you will not be forced to do this. (Rule 72)

Immigration Detainees

As an immigration detainee what can I expect in prison?

If you are not an Irish citizen and you are kept in prison for any reason, the prison Governor must make sure you:

  • can contact a legal advisor
  • understand the rules about legal visits.

Your legal advisor can visit you at any reasonable time during the day and you should always be allowed a visit from them.

What should I do if I am detained and want to apply for asylum?

Asylum is protection from the State for people who have left their native country as refugees escaping from danger.

You should tell the Governor or your Class Officer that you want your legal advisor to visit you to start your asylum application. If you need an interpreter to help you communicate with your legal advisor, the Governor may provide one.

If you are applying for asylum, you should also be able to contact, (Rule 16), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees through their office in Ireland. You should also be able to contact any bodies that aim to protect the civil and human rights of foreign nationals or asylum seekers in Ireland or internationally like:

  • the Immigrant Council Of Ireland
  • the Irish Refugee Council
  • NASC (The Irish Immigrant Support Centre)

You should be allowed visits from these organisations. However, a Prison Officer can be there during the visit, unless the Governor says otherwise.

Foreign Nationals

Can I be transferred to my home country to serve my sentence?

If you are foreign national and you wish to return to your own country to serve your sentence, you can apply to the Minister for Justice for a transfer to service your sentence in your home state. Your application may or may not be accepted. There is no guarantee.

To be accepted, the consent of the Minister for Justice in Ireland, your home state, and your own consent are all needed.

Prisoners with Disabilities

What are my rights if I have a disability?

There are various types of disabilities, for example, you might have:

  • autism
  • a learning difficulty
  • experience of mental health services
  • difficulties hearing, seeing or speaking
  • difficulty getting around without devices, assistance or interpretation.

These combined with other various barriers may make it difficult for you to take part in society on an equal basis to others.

If you have a disability, you have the same rights as everyone else. Some things in prison may be more difficult for you if you have a disability. Therefore, you have a right to reasonable accommodation. This means the Irish Prison Service must take appropriate steps to meet your needs. This is to make sure you have access to the same rights as everyone else. You have a right to understand:

  • what you are being told
  • what is expected of you
  • to be understood

For example, if you:

  • find it difficult reading the time, you can get a clock in a different format
  • have difficulties reading and writing, you can get support to fill in forms.

Let the prison staff know what works best for you, for example:

  • Easy Read
  • Braille
  • Sign Language
  • mobility aids
  • assisted devices
  • captioning
  • audio recordings.

Prison staff have a duty to help you

The prison staff have a duty to help you and must involve you in decisions that affect you.

The law says authorities like the Irish Prison Service have a duty to provide ‘reasonable accommodation’ for prisoners with disabilities. This means they should accommodate your needs as far as possible. However, be aware that the law states that if the accommodation is very expensive, the Prison Service may not have to provide it. The Prison Service may have to move you to another prison to meet your needs.

You don’t have to say you have a disability if you do not want to. If you say it to prison authorities, you have a right to expect that this information will be kept confidential. If you do not tell people, people may not be able to support you because they will not know what support you need. If you ask for support but do not say you have a disability, you may be less likely to receive support.

Even if you do not describe yourself as having a disability, you have a right not to be discriminated by people who believe that you do have a disability.

Examples of discrimination in prison can be:

  • not being able to take part in workshops, education or employment because there is no sign language interpreter
  • not having access to the yard or gym because it is inaccessible
  • not being given a wheelchair or cane when you need it
  • not having an accessible cell
  • being left in a cell all day because other parts of the prison are inaccessible
  • being punished for breaking prison rules when rules were not communicated to you in an accessible way.

The Prison Service must make sure you have access to the same services and places as other prisoners. You can ask for extra support to do daily tasks or to take part in programmes within the prison including employment, education and rehabilitation programmes.

Female Prisoners

As a female prisoner, how can I expect to be treated in prison?

Women should be kept in separate areas to male prisoners, and male prisoners should not be allowed access to areas at the same time as female prisoners. However, the Governor may allow male and female prisoners to take part together in authorised activities. (Rule 52)

What happens if am pregnant, or have a baby when I am committed to prison?

If you are pregnant and likely to give birth while you’re in custody, the Governor will arrange it so that you can give birth in a hospital with suitable facilities outside the prison. (Rule 33 [2])

If a woman with a baby is committed to prison or if she gives birth in prison, arrangements can be made for the child to stay with her, for example, to allow for breastfeeding, up to the age of 12 months. (Rule 17)

The Governor will check with Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) and the Probation Service and may allow your baby to stay with you for up to a year. If the Tusla assessment says that it is best that your child stays with you in prison until they are 12 months, the Governor will make sure you have the items and food that your baby needs.

Your child can only be taken away from you if:

  • the court orders it
  • you give your permission for the child to be removed.

Where you give permission for your child to be removed, this can only be done if the Governor also directs it. The Governor will only direct your child’s removal after they have consulted with a prison doctor and other appropriate healthcare professionals.

Your child will only be allowed to stay with you in prison after the age of 12 months in very special circumstances. If the Governor allows your child to stay with you for longer than 12 months, you will have to arrange for any items or care needed at your own expense.

Towards the end of the baby’s time with you, your baby may be allowed to spend time outside the prison. For example, they may be able to spend a few days with the person who will care for them during your time in prison. This will allow you and the baby to prepare for eventual separation.

The Governor will check with you and Tusla as to whether your child will be placed in care when they leave the prison. The best interests of your child should always be the main concern.