Written answers

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Department of Justice and Equality

Prison Regulations

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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70. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if there has been a policy change to discontinue the practice of spiritual comfort visits in prisons as a result of overcrowding. [44575/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The Irish Prison Chaplain Service has a crucial role in the provision of pastoral and spiritual care to the entire prison community and seeks to meet the needs of all denominations. Chaplains are mostly Roman Catholic, but also come from the Church of Ireland and Methodist denominations. Spiritual advisors of other churches/religions can also attend the prisons on a visiting basis, subject to normal visit rules.

The Irish Prison Service fully acknowledges that Chaplaincy has a significant contribution to make as part of the multi-disciplinary team in a prison, addressing the physical, social and spiritual needs of prisoners in a holistic way. Prisons are difficult environments in which to live and prisoners face many personal challenges in their daily lives and at particular times of crisis, for example, family bereavement, health problems or loss of a court appeal and also in settling into prison upon committal or getting ready for release. Prison chaplains can offer a comforting and supportive presence that is independent and professional, while working as part of the prison multi-disciplinary team reporting to the Governor.

The Irish Prison Service has recently secured sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for the filling of 3.5 chaplaincy vacancies throughout the prison estate, specifically: 1 post each in Cork and Limerick and half time positions in the Mountjoy Campus, West Dublin Campus and Loughan House Open Centre. This will increase resources of the chaplaincy service to 15 posts, covering 14 institutions. The intention is to bring the total number of chaplains in the prison service up to 18.5, in order to ensure an effective and meaningful chaplaincy service. These new chaplains recruited from a Public Appointments Service competition will be direct employees of the Irish Prison Service.

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