Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Irish Prison Service
Question 89: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality how he intends to address the crisis of education provision within the Irish Prison Service; his plans regarding uptake of educational courses in prisons here considering the low national uptake of 35% and 14% for courses in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13482/12]
Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including notably the VECs and Public Library Services. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is the priority and broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach. The figures cited by the Deputy are for 2010. An average of 38% of the prison population attended classes in 2011 an increase of 3% on the previous year and Mountjoy had an average uptake of 17.2% an increase of 3.2% on the previous year.
Prisoners are encouraged to participate in education activities and waiting lists where they occur are generally for the more popular educational programmes. Where there is a waiting list for a particular course prisoners can engage with other courses until a place becomes available. Education should not be seen in isolation. It is part of a wider holistic approach and many prisoners who are not engaged in education are attending vocational and other programmes.
The Inspector of Prisons recommended in his 2010 Annual Report that an independent audit be commissioned by the Irish Prison Service examining the type of education being provided in prisons, the relevance of such education, the numbers being educated and the value for money being provided. The reports for each of the 14 Prison Education Centres are currently being finalised and will be sent to the Department of Education and Skills, the relevant VECs and the Inspector of Prisons for their consideration with a view to the early implementation of recommendations.
A significant expansion and development of vocational training programmes has taken place in recent years and there are now over 100 workshops in place in our prisons capable of catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day. There was a significant increase in the number of prisoners who participated in accredited vocational training courses in 2011, when 1,219 prisoners attended such courses.
The Irish Prison Service provides a range of other rehabilitative programmes that include health care, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services.
I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service is in the process of drafting a new Strategic Plan 2012-2014 which will be presented to me, by the Director General, in the first week of April. The development of prisoner education will form a central part of this Strategy.