Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
153. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will commit to a daily minimum of 12 hours out of cell activity for all prisoners, with an emphasis on education, training and work. [12670/16]
I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that there are currently no plans to commit to a daily minimum of 12 hours out of cell activity for prisoners.
I am further advised by the Irish Prison Service that it provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes to persons in custody that include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes offer purposeful activity to those in custody while serving their sentences and encouraging them to lead law abiding lives on release. These programmes are available in all prisons and all persons in custody are eligible to use the services.
On committal, including committal for first time offences, all persons in custody are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. Persons in custody may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date.
The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole time teacher equivalents in partnership with the Irish Prison Service through the Education and Training Boards (ETB). The focus is on providing education which is quality assured, student centred and facilitates lifelong learning through helping those in custody to cope with their sentence, achieve personal development and prepare for life after release. A broad and flexible curriculum is provided which ranges from basic literacy classes and peer led tutoring to Open University. There is an increasing focus on QQI (formerly FETAC) accreditation as the modular structure is suitable to the needs of students in prison.
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 the Irish Prison Service to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification.
The guiding principles which underpin the prisons' work and training service are to make available work, work-training and other purposeful activities to those in custody. Training activities are chosen to give as much variety as possible and also to give opportunities for those in prison to acquire practical accredited skills which will help them secure employment on release.
Each prison also has fully equipped gymnasium that prisoners access on a structured basis, which plays a significant role in prison life by providing positive outlets for energy.
It is the aim of the Prison Service to allow prisoners to spend as much time as possible each day out of their cell or room to associate with other prisoners. Rule 27(3) of the Prison Rules 2007 states "In so far as is practicable, each convicted prisoner should be engaged in authorised structured activity for a period of not less than five hours on each of five days in each week".
In general prison cells are unlocked at approximately 8.15am each morning for breakfast. Prisoners collect breakfast and return to cells, which are then locked from 8.45am to 9.15am. Cells are again unlocked for prisoners to attend work, school , visits and exercise. Prisoners return for lunch at 12:00pm and cells are locked at 12.30pm. Afternoon unlock commences at 2.15pm and prisoners return to structured activities in schools, workshops and visits. Evening tea is served from 4pm and cells are locked from 4.30pm to 5.20pm when evening recreation commences until all cells are locked at 7.30pm. This allows for total out of cell time of up to 8 hours.