Written answers

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Department of Justice and Equality

Prisoner Welfare

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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468. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will commission a report into the treatment of women in the State's prisons. [26824/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The Irish Prison Service 3 year Strategic Plan sets out the high level objectives and key strategic actions for the organisation during the period 2012 to 2015. Included is a key commitment that the Prison Service will work in partnership with the Probation Service and other stakeholders in developing a strategy for managing women offenders. This commitment is being delivered through the Services' joint Women’s Strategy 2014 – 2016 which was published on 6 March, 2014. The strategy entitled “An Effective Response to Women Who Offend” outlines how the two agencies along with other statutory, community, and voluntary sector partners will provide customised interventions for women with the aim to reduce offending, improve opportunities for reintegration, and to improve outcomes more generally.

While the majority of women’s offending behaviour is at the lower end of the seriousness scale, it is acknowledged that they generally have a high level of need which can make the impact of imprisonment for them and their families particularly challenging. This strategy will deal with this through a dedicated and effective approach to working with women offenders.

As regards accommodation for female prisoners, a refurbishment project in the Dóchas Centre to convert a building previously used for administration and storage into prisoner accommodation was completed in 2012 providing an additional 20 prisoners spaces. This Unit is used to house prisoners on an incentivised regime. A Business case for the modernisation of facilities in Limerick prison is currently being drafted by the Prison Service. Part of the proposed re-development includes the provision of high quality prison accommodation for female prisoners with capacity of approximately 50 individual cells and 8 custodial apartments.

Finally, the Deputy will be aware that a working group was established by my predecessor to conduct an all encompassing strategic review of penal policy. The Group was asked to examine the role of penal policy in crime prevention, sentencing policies, alternatives to custody, custodial accommodation and regimes, reintegration and rehabilitation as well as any special issues relating to female offenders. The Group is expected to report shortly.

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