Written answers

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Child Detention Centres

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Independent)
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574. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number and location of all child detention places; the average monthly occupancy rates in each case; the number of occasion over the past two years when no place was available for a minor referred by the Courts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50860/13]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Children; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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There are currently 3 children detention schools in the State: Trinity House, Oberstown Boys and Oberstown Girls schools. All are located on the same campus at Oberstown, near Lusk, Co. Dublin. These schools currently accommodate girls under 18 years of age and boys under 17 whose detention is ordered by the Courts on remand or on conviction for criminal offences.

The current legal detention capacity on the Oberstown campus comprises 24 male detention places in Trinity House School, 8 female detention places in Oberstown Girls School, and 22 male detention places in Oberstown Boys School. In the latter case, this was increased from 20 detention places with effect from 1 October 2013. However, only 16 of the certified 24 male places in Trinity House School are currently available. The Irish Youth Justice Service, which is based in my Department, is currently in discussions with management, staff and unions on the Oberstown campus on initiatives to reconfigure the detention places and staff resources, in order to address the increased demand for male detention places from the courts.

There were a small number of places available at most times in all 3 children detention schools in the period November 2011-February 2013. However, since March 2013, the occupancy of Trinity House School and Oberstown Boys School has been at maximum on most occasions, due to the high level of demand from the courts for male detention places. This has meant that any places that become available have been reallocated within a short period of time. Based on daily occupancy reports from the Irish Youth Justice Service in the period 1 March - 25 November 2013, it is estimated that there were 108 days where there was a male detention place available in either Trinity House School or Oberstown Boys School. On most other days, both sites were at maximum occupancy and no further places were available. This estimate excludes weekends and public holidays. In the case of Oberstown Girls School, there have been no issues relating to a shortage of female detention places in the past 2 years.

There is daily coordination between the 24 hour on - call bed management service operated by the Irish Youth Justice Service for the Oberstown campus, the Probation Service, an Garda Síochána and the Courts. Updated information is available at any time on the occupancy level in Oberstown. There are long standing arrangements whereby the other stakeholders involved cooperate with this system and enquiries received may relate to either the general availability of detention places or the availability of a place for a particular young person. It is also important to note that while both Trinity House School and Oberstown Boys School are operating at maximum capacity on most occasions at present, there is still a service being provided for a significant number of young people in contact with the criminal justice system. There were 23 boys in detention on committal orders on 1st March 2013 and there were 12 boys on remand orders on the same date. I am advised that in the period 1 March - 25 November 2013, there were a total of 88boys remanded in custody and 29 boys committed to a period of detention to either Trinity House School or Oberstown Boys School.

In terms of the overall capacity of the Oberstown site, I have recently confirmed that a main contractor and a number of sub-contractors have now been appointed to the Oberstown development project and construction of the new facilities started on site on 23 September 2013. On 14 October 2013 I officially launched the construction project with the event taking place on the campus in Oberstown.

The timeline for the project will see the first three new residential units available in the third quarter of 2014, which will be used to facilitate the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from adult prison facilities (currently St. Patrick's Institution) to the Oberstown campus and will deliver on the Government's commitment to end the practice of detaining children in St. Patrick's Institution. An additional three residential units, to be delivered in 2015, will be used to replace existing accommodation on the Oberstown campus which has reached the end of its useful life. The development will also provide associated education, recreation, security and other ancillary facilities and will result in all detention services for children being delivered in a single location, maximising the scope for ensuring best practice standards using the children detention school model and for operational efficiency. The project is due to be fully complete by the third quarter of 2015.

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