Written answers

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Department of Justice and Equality

Prison Service Strategies

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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415. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which she expects the strategies for older prisoners; women prisoners, young prisoners, sex offenders, and prisoners requiring protection to be published; when the strategies will be operational in each prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15654/15]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy is aware the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2012 - 2015 includes a commitment that the Irish Prison Service will, in conjunction with other key stakeholders, devise specific strategies for younger prisoners, women, older prisoners, sex offenders, protection prisoners, violent offenders and those suffering from mental illness. Work on the development and implementation of these strategies are underway and are being implemented over the lifetime of the Strategic Plan.

The progress report on year 2 of the implementation plan of this strategy will form part of the soon to be published Irish Prison Service Annual Report for 2014. I will furnish the Deputy with a copy of this report which will be published shortly.

In relation to the strategy for young offenders, the Deputy will be aware the Government is committed to ending the practice of sending children to St. Patrick’s Institution. Significant progress has been made by my own Department and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in fulfilling that commitment. Responsibility for 16 year old boys was transferred from the Irish Prison Service to the children detention facilities at Oberstown in May 2012. Since December 2013, all boys aged 17 years sentenced to detention in St. Patrick’s have been transferred to dedicated units in Wheatfield Place of Detention. Boys aged 17 remanded in custody to St. Patrick’s Institution remain the responsibility of the Irish Prison Service pending the completion of the building project at the children detention facilities at Oberstown and the preparation of the necessary legal instruments to transfer responsibility for this category of offender to Oberstown. The Oberstown campus commenced taking 17 year old males who are newly remanded in custody since Monday 30 March 2015. This is a further step towards the implementation of the Programme for Government commitment to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities.

Further work carried out for young offenders includes: facilitating Red Cross training in Wheatfield Place of Detention, focusing on rehabilitative resettlement of young offenders under supervision and delivering victim empathy group programmes in both Wheatfield and the children detention school.

On 6 March 2014 the IPS published a Women’s Strategy entitled "An Effective Response to Women Who Offend". The Women’s Strategy sets out how the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service work together, as well as with other statutory, community and voluntary sector partners, to provide women-focused interventions to help reduce offending, improve opportunities for reintegration and to improve outcomes more generally. This co-operative approach is a direct result of the Joint Irish Prison Service/Probation Service Female Strategy 2014-2016 which aims to deliver more effective offender management.In addressing the needs of women offenders the IPS have also:

- worked with a range of agencies including the Dublin Regional Housing Executive, Dublin City Council, HSE, DCETB to open the Abigail centre which is run by DePaul Ireland and Novas Ireland. The centre provides supported accommodation and a wide variety of services for women.

- Initiated collaboration with INSPIRE women's project in Northern Ireland with a joint visit by the PS and IPS staff.

- Pursued tailored placements for women on community service and community return.

- completed audit of inreach services in the Dochas Prison and Limerick Women's Prison.

In relation to prisoners on protection the strategy commits the Prison Service to introducing appropriate assessment procedures to inform their prisoner placement policy to ensure that prisoners are accommodated appropriate to their security status. The roll-out of the various assessment tools is well under way.It is at the committal stage that the majority of prisoners are identified as being in need of protection. In many instances, the prisoner will identify himself as being in need of same and in other instances, either intelligence or the assessment of the governor will identify a prisoner as requiring protection. Efforts are made on a continuous basis to reduce the numbers of protection prisoners, there is a significant reduction in the number of protection prisoners and improved out of cell time. Since the commencement of the census in July 2013, the number of prisoners on 22/23 hour lock up has decreased by 154 or 74% from 211 to 57% ( Figures taken from January 2015 Census).

In the context of older persons in prison, in line with the Three Year Strategic Plan, the Irish Prison Service is seeking to identify the care needs of persons 55 years of age and above with a view to putting in place care plans to address those needs. Development of a Prison policy specifically focusing on the care and management of older prisoners - strategic links and interventions is ongoing to strengthen integration, cooperation and support in collaboration with community services to ensure seamless transition on release, in addition to improving the quality of life of this cohort of prisoners while in custody. The survey of older prisoners was completed in 2014 and a review of the survey results is currently under consideration and appropriate actions within resources to be implemented in 2015.

Discussions and proposals of the joint IPS/Probation Service working group, in relation to achieving an effective and managed response to imprisoned sex offenders, are under active consideration in partnership with my Department. .

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