International experience shows that it is imperative that the issue of political prisoners be addressed during the process of conflict resolution. There are currently 380 Irish Republican Prisoners Of War being held in jails in Ireland, Britain and the United States. 73 of these are serving life sentences while 80 are serving sentences of 20 years or over.
The treatment of Irish political prisoners in English jails seriously deteriorated following the IRA cessation of August 1994. Of the 28 Irish political prisoners in England, five are into their 22nd year of imprisonment and 14 are being held in solitary confinement in Special Secure Units (SSU's). Those held in SSU's are subjected to an inhumane regime of 23 hour lock up, constant cell searches and are subjected to closed visits.
All 41 Republican prisoners in Portlaoise jail are currently engaged in a ``non co-operation protest'' following the decision of the government to deny access to compassionate parole to a republican prisoner, serving a forty year sentence, following the death of his mother. There are four Republican Prisoners serving forty year sentences in Portlaoise. One of these men has served over sixteen years while the other three have served almost thirteen years.