Written answers

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Prisoner Education Service

2:30 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Independent)
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Question 596: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will report to Dáil Éireann on the history of the CONNECT project in Irish prisons and the way this work of re-integrating former prisoners into society and the economy is now facilitated in the prison system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1515/11]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The CONNECT project was piloted with EU Integra Funding in the years prior to 2000 and was announced as part of the 2000 to 2006 National Development Plan. It consisted of three strands: Work Training (including Specials Projects), Sentence Management and Capital Projects. Expenditure under the programme consisted, in the main, of staff salaries and materials for the work training area.

CONNECT's original focus was on vocational orientation and training for prisoners, combined with job placement at the time of release. Other needs of prisoners impacting potentially on their employability were to be addressed through the existing prison services.

An internal Irish Prison Service review of CONNECT was carried out in 2002. The result was a decision to refocus the project to concentrate exclusively on the Work Training area. It was decided that the sentence management elements needed to be aligned more centrally within the prison system rather than residing in the work training area. This change in focus was subsequently agreed by the Regional Monitoring Committees that monitor the National Development Plan during the mid-term review process.

The refocus towards the provision of enhanced pre-vocational and vocational training involved dedicated new staffing and funding within the prison system. The Work Training Service increased from approximately 150 staff to an authorised complement of over 250 posts and was complemented by a workshop refurbishment and equipment replacement programme.

The learning from CONNECT informed the development and rollout of Integrated Sentence Management (ISM). The core goal of ISM is a prisoner centred approach to the management of custodial sentences. ISM is to identify, deliver and measure appropriate interventions to address the identified risks and needs of prisoners. ISM is currently operating in ten prisons: Arbour Hill, Castlerea, Cork, Dóchas, Midlands, Mountjoy, Portlaoise, St. Patrick's Institution, the Training Unit and Wheatfield. Currently, over 1,000 prisoners are engaged in ISM. It is intended to provide ISM to all newly committed prisoners with sentences of one year and upwards.

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