Written answers

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Department of Justice and Equality

Prison Education Service

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Independent)
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432. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of classes in education and training available in prisons in Dublin; the numbers of attendees in each class in each year from 2011 to 2014 and in 2015 to date; and the measures that are in place to make education and training available to those on protection. [11165/15]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that records of prisoner participation in vocational training and education programmes are not maintained in such a way as to provide the specific information sought by the Deputy.

Broad programmes of education are provided which generally follow an adult education approach. Prison education includes a core element of basic education incorporating reading, writing, numeracy and IT literacy. The aim of the Education Service is to deliver a high quality, broad, flexible programme of education that helps prisoners cope with their sentence, achieve personal development, prepare for life after release and establish an appetite and capacity for life-long learning. Programmes are adapted to take account of the diversity of the prisoner population and the complex nature of prison life, including segregation requirements and high levels of prisoner turnover.

Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with the Education and Training Board s (ETBs) and a range of other educational agencies. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of whole-time teacher equivalents to the prisons through the ETBs (220 in the academic year 2015/16). Organisations who provide in-reach education roles include Open University, the Samaritans, the Red Cross, Grow, Toe by Toe, Writers and Artists in prison etc. Other courses run through the education centres include pre-release programmes, parenting, hairdressing, Alternatives to Violence etc.

I can inform the Deputy that in January 2015, the latest month for which figures are available, 46.1% of the total prisoner population attended education classes during this time.

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.

Prisoners involved in work and training activities may do so with a view to gaining accreditation in a particular area or in order to keep busy during their sentence. Engagement in vocational training can have added benefits in the form of boosting self-confidence, imparting useful practical skills and improving social skills. On any given day, prisoners work in areas such as the laundry, kitchens, horticultural or gardening, industrial cleaning, waste management and picture framing shops where the labour they provide can be of benefit to the effective running of the prison and for which they may or may not receive accreditation.

I can inform the Deputy that in January 2015, the latest month for which figures are available for prisoner participation in work and training (accredited and non-accredited), 30% of the total prisoner population attended workshop sessions.

The restriction of a prisoner's regime can occur due to a number of factors including, the protection of vulnerable prisoners. This is provided for under Rule 63 of the Prison Rules 2007. A prisoner may, either at his/her own request or when the Governor considers it necessary, in so far as is practicable and subject to the maintenance and good order and safe and secure custody, be kept separate from other prisoners who are reasonably likely to cause significant harm to him/her.

In addition, the Governor may decide, for the maintenance of good order in the prison, to remove a prisoner from general association or structured activity to reduce the negative effect that a prisoner or prisoners may have on the general population. This is provided for under Rule 62 of the Prison Rules 2007. There may also be a smaller number of prisoners who would be restricted for medical (Rule 64) or discipline reasons (Rule 67).

The fact that prisoners seeking protection are immediately separated from the general population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat, clearly demonstrates the commitment of the Irish Prison Service to ensure their safety and security. The status of each prisoner on restricted regime within the prison system is regularly reviewed. If possible, prisoners can be transferred to other institutions where a restricted regime would not be necessary.

Education is available to prisoners seeking protection in all Dublin prisons with the exception of Cloverhill prison. Protection prisoners in Cloverhill had access to education from 2007/08 to 2012/13 academic year for 6.25 hours weekly. To facilitate this non-protection prisoners did not have access to education at those times. In those five years the numbers of prisoners on protection who availed of education was less that 5% of the numbers on protection at those times. In the academic year 2013 - 2014 a decision was taken to revert access times for protection prisoners only back to non protection prisoners so that already limited resources could be used more effectively and efficiently.

Access to training for prisoners seeking protection is only available in Mountjoy and Cloverhill. Access in Cloverhill is limited to the computer workshop.

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