Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
130. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which juveniles have been incarcerated in adult prisons over the past three years; his plans to address this issue and where possible provide rehabilitative and custodial care in lieu of such practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2185/15]
On a sample date of 30 October 2012, there were a total of 31 children detained in the adult prison system. The comparable figure for the same date in 2013 was 14 children and the same number also applied on 30 October 2014. The reduction of approximately 50% in the number of children detained in the adult prison system between 2012 and 2013 reflects the transfer of responsibility for 16 year old boys to the children detention schools, which was put in place in May 2012. On 16 January 2015, there were a total of 16 boys detained in the adult prison system, comprising 6 boys remanded in custody in St Patrick’s Institution and 10 boys serving a sentence of detention in Wheatfield Place of Detention.
There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to end the practice of detainingchildren in adult prison facilities. Significant progress has been made and this commitment will be fully met when the extension of the Oberstown campus results in the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from the adult prison system to the children detention schools. The Oberstown capital development project, which commenced on site in September 2013, will enable the extension of the child care model of detention, which focuses on education and rehabilitation in order to minimize re-offending, to all under 18 year olds ordered to be detained by the courts on criminal justice charges.
The first 3 units of residential accommodation, which will prioritise the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from adult prison facilities, were formally handed over to the Oberstown campus on 27 November 2014, following the required inspection of works and technical approval of the Office of Public Works, managing the project on behalf of my Department. I am advised that, in order to ensure safe and secure custody of children in the new buildings and that the appropriate health and safety standards are met, a further period of training and orientation for staff and for the fitting out of the new units with furniture and equipment is required. This process is ongoing at present and will be completed in the first quarter of 2015.
Other issues impacting on the operational date for the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys are the recruitment of the required complement of new care staff to work in the expanded facilities, and the passage of necessary legislation to ensure that all legal issues relating to the detention of children up to the age of 18 are fully addressed. Following a recruitment programme carried out in 2014, 38 new care staff have commenced employment on the Oberstown campus and completed the training and orientation process. However, the recruitment programme had a target of 60 additional care staff and an additional process for a further phase of recruitment is currently underway. It is intended that the required staff complement will be reached in the second quarter of 2015 for the operation of all of the new residential units.
My Department is also progressing the necessary legal changes required in order to transfer responsibility for 17 year old boys from adult prison facilities. Heads of a Bill to amend the Children Act, 2001 were approved by Government in September 2014 and it is intended that the Bill will be published this quarter and enacted as soon as possible thereafter.
My Department is reviewing these matters on an ongoing basis and it is my intention that the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities will cease as early as possible this year.