Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Question 72: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to address the number of juveniles and young adults who spend prolonged periods of time on protection in St. Patrick's Institution, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13858/12]
I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that 91 inmates were held on protection for their own safety out of a total population figure of 222 in St Patrick's Institution on 5th March, 2012. Included in the overall number of 222 were 41 boys in the 16 and 17 years of age category who are accommodated in a different accommodation block from those over the age of 18. Of this category, 9 offenders were on protection.
Protection prisoners are those who are considered to be under threat or at risk in the general population. This may arise as a result of a request from the prisoner or after consideration by Prison management. The number of prisoners on protection is regarded by the Irish Prison Service as an indicator of the steps taken in individual prisons to ensure in so far as possible the safety of the offenders. The fact that prisoners seeking protection are immediately separated from the general prison population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat demonstrates prison management's commitment to ensuring their safety and security.
It is at the committal stage that the majority of prisoners seek protection. External influences imported to the prison on committal can include gang rivalry, drug debts and perceived cooperation with the Gardaí etc. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and, based on the information available, a decision is made as to where a particular prisoner should be accommodated. In some instances, prisoners are transferred to other establishments. However, the Deputy will appreciate that this provision is only applicable to prisoners over 18 years of age as other prisons cannot legally hold inmates aged 16 and 17 year olds.
All persons detained on protection in St Patrick's Institution get at minimum 1 hour of exercise per day and leave their cells for various other activities throughout the day. Prisoners on protection avail of recreation with others also on protection to allow them as much out of cell time as possible. All protection prisoner's cases are reviewed at regular intervals to assess if the prisoner still requires protection status and to ensure their safe and secure detention.