Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
Prisoner Rehabilitation Programmes
117. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the improvements she would like to see in the daily routine of Irish prisoners; the resources she will make available for these improvements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14773/16]
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". I am 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. Each prison also has fully equipped gymnasium that prisoners access on a structured basis.
In addition a total of 24 dedicated Integrated Sentence Management Coordinators are operational in all prisons and open centres since March 2015. The allocation of dedicated staff in each establishment greatly enhances the effectiveness of the sentence management system and facilitates the growing numbers of prisoners participating in the process. A review of the Integrated Sentence Management process is currently underway.
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.
With regard to prisoner accommodation I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that as of the 12thFebruary 2016, 98% of all prisoners have 24-hour access to toilet facilities. The number slopping out has decreased from 1,003 at the end of 2010 to just 56 on 7 April 2016, (Limerick 32 and Portlaoise 24).
I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that construction of a new wing at Limerick prison is planned to commence in the first quarter of next year. The Irish Prison Service has also recently finalised a business case for the construction of a replacement for the E-Block at Portlaoise prison. Subject to the necessary approvals and the availability of finance it is hoped to commence construction works there in mid-2017. When these developments are complete the practice of slopping out will have been completely eradicated from all of the prison estate.
I am further advised that the Irish Prison Service has included a specific strategic action which is exclusively aimed at prisoner support in its' Strategic Plan for 2016-2018, which I will be publishing later this month.