Written answers

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Department of Justice and Equality

Prison Education Service

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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565. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners actively following a course with the Open University at the present time, in total and in each institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21381/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I can inform the Deputy that the following table shows the existing vacancies for workshop and work training posts in each Prison. Vacancies are in the process of being filled by a combination of redeployment of Prison Service clerical staff under the Haddington Road/Croke Park Agreement and from a current Work Training Officer panel. While it is not possible to give a definitive timescale for the filling of all posts, the matter is being treated as a priority by IPS and it is hoped to have the vacancies filled by mid-summer this year.

The Irish Prison Service places a strong emphasis on improving prisoners’ employability prospects through work training activities and accredited vocational training courses. A wide range of training workshops operate within the institutions e.g. printing, computers, braille, woodwork, metalwork, construction, industrial cleaning, crafts and horticulture. There are over 100 workshops and service activities across the prison estate. In March, the latest month for which statistics are available, an average of over 1,057 prisoners engaged in these vocational training activities and courses each day - 26% of the average prison population in that month.

The Irish Prison Service has also been expanding the number of accredited courses and opportunities available to prisoners in Work Training in recent years. Enhanced partnership arrangements with accrediting bodies such as City and Guilds, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), and the Guild of Launders and Cleaners and the centralising of coordination and quality assurance arrangements have enabled us to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification.

Prison
Vacancies
Arbour Hill
0
Castlerea
1
Cloverhill
0
Cork
0
Dochas
0
Limerick
2
Loughan House
0
Midlands
6
Mountjoy
2
Portlaoise
1
Shelton Abbey
0
St. Patrick's Institution
0
Training Unit
0
Wheatfield
1

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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566. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a highly successful fine art programme run by the National College of Art and Design in Portlaoise Prison from 1987 to 2010 was terminated by her Department in 2011; if she has read the positive review of this programme conducted by a person (details supplied); if she has seen the RTE documentary regarding some of those who took part in this NCAD programme, transmitted on 30 April 2014; if she will ask her officials to engage in discussion with the NCAD with a view to having this programme restored in Portlaoise Prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21387/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I can advise the Deputy that funding to the National College of Art and Design was terminated in 2011 for a number of reasons including the need to prioritise the use of scarce resources where they can be most effectively utilised. The Irish Prison Service is continuing to review its priorities for spending in the education budget and is targeting areas of greatest need and best potential outcomes. We have commenced a process of closer engagement with the Department of Education and the Education and Training Boards in order to bring a more coordinated approach to prison education including reviewing the curriculum being provided to prisoners.

Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including notably the Education and Training Boards and Public Library Services. Each Education Centre now has the services of an Art teacher in addition to the 'Artists in Prison Scheme'. Preparations are currently underway for a prisoner art exhibition which will be held in the Hunt Museum Limerick in late 2014. This event is held every 2 years and prisoners from throughout the prison estate submit their work in ceramic and paint for display to the general public. The Irish Prison Service is currently compiling an anthology of prisoner's writing - including prose and poetry - which it is hoped will be published in late 2014.

The importance of arts and crafts classes for prisoners is fully acknowledged by the Irish Prison Service as these classes are often the initial passage for prisoners to get involved in the education process. Many prisoners have very negative experiences of education in the community and it is only by attracting them into education units in prisons through these classes that other needs can be identified and addressed. Last year, the Irish Prison Service received funding from the Arts Council and matched this amount, for the promotion of art in prisons. The average cost of the programme from 2005 to 2010 was €60,000 annually and regrettably it is not possible in the current economic climate to recommence.

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