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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Key Words(A-Z Listing)

Appeal

A challenge in a higher court to a decision made in a lower court.

Authorised Structured Activities

Activities and facilities available to prisoners including:

  • education
  • training
  • recreation

Bail

Bail is where you have been charged with a crime, and you are released from custody (explained below) while waiting for your trial because you or someone else has promised that you will appear in court for your trial.

Barrister

Specialist in:

  • litigation – legal actions
  • advocacy – speaking up for or acting on behalf of a client.

Usually, the solicitor instructs the barrister about the case. The barrister does not usually deal directly with the person taking the case.

Case

Bail is where you have been charged with a crime, and you are released from custody (explained below) while waiting for your trial because you or someone else has promised that you will appear in court for your trial.

Class Officer

The officer in charge of your unit or prison landing (also known as Unit Officer). The Class Officer can tell you about the prison routine. They can also arrange for you to see the:

  • doctor
  • psychiatrist
  • probation services

Close Supervision Cell

This is a special kind of cell to separate prisoners who prison staff think are:

  • a danger to others in the prison
  • disruptive.

When a prisoner is considered to be disruptive by prison management, the close supervision cell may be used to keep them separate from other prisoners to make sure the prison stays safe and secure.

Committal

The process of being admitted to prison.

Custody

A period of time during which you are kept in one place and not allowed to leave, for example in a Garda station or a prison.

Detention

A period of time during which you are kept in one place and not allowed to leave, for example in a Garda station or a prison.

Deportation

A process in which a government forces a person to leave a country. This may be because they were living there illegally or because they have committed a crime.

European Court of Human Rights

The court that hears cases when people feel their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been affected.

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) (CPT)

This Committee visits places of detention including prisons and psychiatric institutions in Europe. They write reports about the conditions there

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

This is an agreement that protects rights like the right to:

  • a fair trial
  • privacy
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of association

Extradition

A person accused or convicted of a crime can be transferred (‘extradited’) from one country to another country. Ireland has extradition agreements with several countries.

Governor

The Governor is in charge of the day-to-day running of the prison. They are responsible for:

  • managing the prison
  • security
  • the safety of prisoners and staff

The Governor must also make sure sentence management plans are met, and services are delivered to prisoners. Your plan will help youprepare for your release. For example, it may set goals in areas such as education and training.

In possession of

Owning, carrying, storing or otherwise being responsible for, or having control over, an item or items. The term is used often in connection with:

  • stolen goods
  • firearms
  • controlled drugs (these are drugs that you are not legally allowed to use).

Incentivised Regimes (Policy)

Incentivised Regimes (IR) is a rewards scheme based on a prisoner’s level of engagement with services and their behaviour. There are three levels: basic, standard and enhanced.

Integrated Sentence Management

Integrated Service Management (ISM) is a system developed to support the sentence management of prisoners serving sentence of one year or more. ISM involves an initial assessment, a sentence plan (explained later) and review to measure your progress.

Integrated Sentence Management Co-ordinator

An Integrated Service Management (ISM) Co-ordinator is a prison officer who is responsible for developing a sentence plan (explained below) with you.

Inspector of Prisons

The Inspector visits prisons and writes reports on human rights problems relating to:

  • physical conditions
  • healthcare
  • complaints.

The Inspector’s recommendations can lead to positive changes in prison policy and conditions.

Irish Prison Service (IPS)

The Irish Prison Service is responsible for managing prisons and for the safe and secure custody of prisoners.

Judgment

A formal decision made by a court

Legal Advisor

A legal advisor is a barrister or solicitor who advises people before they:

  • are arrested and charged
  • take a case

Often, a solicitor is the only legal advisor you need

Legislation

The law.

Litigation

Taking legal action in court to settle a dispute.

'On Protection'

You may be separated from the general prison population if prison staff consider:

  • you pose a threat to your own safety
  • you pose a threat to another prisoner’s safety
  • a prisoner or group of prisoners may harm you.

This is known as being ‘on protection’

Press Ombudsman

If efforts to resolve an issue directly with the newspaper have been unsuccessful, members of the public can send their complaints about newspaper stories to The Office of the Press Ombudsman. The Ombudsman decides if the complaint is valid and tries to settle the matter so that everyone is satisfied.

Prison Custody Officer (Escort)

This is the person with you when you are taken from or to a prison. They may be a member of the prison service or a member of the Gardaí.

Prison Doctor

The prison doctor will help you look after your health. The Irish Prison Service employs prison doctors. Prison doctors should follow the same rules as if they were working in the community and cannot reveal any confidential medical information about you to any prison staff.

Prisoner Information Management System

The Prisoner Information Management System (PIMS) is the IT system used to records your personal details as a prisoner. (IT stands for information technology and the PIMS is a computer system.).

Prison Nurse

The prison nurse will help you look after your heath. The Irish Prison Service (IPS) employs prison nurses. Prison nurses should follow the same rules as nurses who work in local communities and they cannot reveal any confidential medical information about you to any prison staff. They are there to speak for you and help you with any medical needs you may have.

Prohibited Items (Sometimes Called Banned Items)

Things you are not allowed to have in prison, including:

  • mobile phones
  • illegal drugs
  • alcohol
  • weapons

Regime

The range of educational, training and recreational out-of-cell activities available to prisoners. Regime can also refer to the lock and unlock hours in each prison, and the reward level you are on under the incentivised regimes policy (explained earlier).

Remand Prisoner

A remand prisoner is someone:

  • charged with committing an offence; and
  • illegal drugs
  • who is not given bail; and
  • who has to stay in prison until their trial.

Remission

This is the official term for early release given to prisoners for good behaviour when they have served three quarters of their sentence.

Resettlement Co-ordinator

A Resettlement Co-ordinator works with people both before and after their release. Resettlement co-ordinators work with other services in prisons such as probation, counsellors, psychology and teachers. A Resettlement Co-ordinator will help you access any supports or services that you’re entitled to after you’ve been released.

Safety Observation Cell

This is a special type of cell to keep prisoners who pose an immediate and serious danger to themselves or others for medical reasons. They are used when there is no suitable alternative to reduce risks. It is a resource that aims to promote health.

Solicitor

A solicitor is a lawyer or legal advisor who deals directly with a person taking a legal case.

Special Observation Cell

This is a cell with special safety features and furniture that improve your safety and allow you to be observed. There are two types of special observation cell: safety observation cells and close supervision cells (explained earlier).

State agents

Employees of the government who carry out the functions of the State, for example:

  • the Gardaí
  • Prison Officers
  • the army
  • local authorities.

Tusla

Tusla is the Child and Family Agency. It is the State agency responsible for child protection and welfare

Training and Employment Officer

A Training and Employment Officer (TEO) works with people in prison to help them develop a plan for what they will do after they’re released. The plan is focused on your particular training, employment or educational needs.

United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT)

The Committee has 10 independent experts. They make sure that the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is followed by States that have signed up to the convention. Every four years the Committee examines State reports and recommends improvements.

Work Training Officer

Work Training Officers (WTO) guide prisoners through work and training programmes in prisons.