Written answers

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Department of Justice and Equality

Prison Incentivised Regimes Policy

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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380. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality given that the incentivised regime programme introduced in the Irish Prison Service in 2012 was supposed to be cost neutral, if she has undertaken any research to ensure that costs are not used to keep prisoners from accessing enhanced regimes and work, due to budget restrictions. [24974/15]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the Incentivised Regimes Policy was introduced on a phased basis across all prisons in 2012 and is now operational in all institutions. Incentivised Regimes provides for a differentiation of privileges between prisoners according to their level of engagement with services and quality of behaviour. The objective is to provide tangible incentives to prisoners to participate in structured activities and to reinforce good behaviour, leading to a safer and more secure environment.

There are three levels of privilege - basic, standard and enhanced and each prison has developed an information booklet on how the scheme operates and specifically on the criteria and privileges associated with each level of regime. The Incentivised Regimes Policy provides significant motivational factors in encouraging prisoners to engage in authorised structured activities and improve general behaviour. The hope is that these benefits are not just apparent in prisons and that the behavioural change effected will stay with the prisoner on his release. Experience in other jurisdictions has shown that an incentivised regime structure is a hugely valuable addition to prisons in the context of good order and prisoner compliance.

All prisoners have the opportunity to become eligible for enhanced regime status provided they have met the required criteria for the preceding two months. To qualify for progression to the enhanced level, prisoners must participate actively in structured activities in education, work/training and/or offender programmes with approved services for at least five defined periods a week, unless circumstances outside their control prevent this level of engagement.

I can reassure the Deputy that cost is not a determining factor in the operation and management of the Incentivised Regimes process. What is fundamentally important is that prisoners see that the scheme is operated in a fair and transparent manner and that appropriate behaviour and engagement with services on their part will result in increased privileges.

Prisoners wishing to earn enhanced privileges who cannot avail of structured activity because no place is currently available, are placed on a waiting list and are not eligible for enhanced privileges while on a waiting list. When this situation arises, every effort is made to transfer the prisoner to an institution where the appropriate, structured activities are available, subject to operational and security concerns. Prisoner participation in activities is voluntary. Prison management and multi-disciplinary teams within prisons make strenuous efforts to encourage prisoners to engage with services as part of the sentence management process.

The consistent application of the Incentivised Regimes (IR) Policy is under continuous review by the Incentivised Regimes Implementation Group chaired by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service and comprising of a representative from each prison and place of detention. The overall Incentivised Regimes Policy has been applied more strictly in the recent past as part of a national review to ensure the integrity of the policy and a fair implementation for all prisoners. This review will also include further training for prison officers overseeing the application of the policy on a daily basis and improvements to the central Incentivised Regimes database.

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