Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
Prison Education Service
57. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the level of training and upskilling that is provided to prisoners in the prison system; the prisons which provide such services; if there is a specific budget allocation for these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29840/16]
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 serving their sentences and encourage 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.
The provision of rehabilitative programmes to persons in custody forms a central part of the activities of the Irish Prison Service. There is a clear commitment to enhance sentence planning through the Integrated Sentence Management system which involves an emphasis on individuals taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services in the prisons. The end result is a person-centred multi-disciplinary approach to working with persons in custody with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.
The Irish Prison Service has 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 and the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers 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 upskill and to acquire practical accredited skills which will help them secure employment on release. The provision of essential prison services such as catering, industrial cleaning and laundry services also form an important part of work training and skills development in all prisons. The budget for 2016 for work training activities is €1.8 million. This budget covers equipment and supplies for work training areas across all prisons.
In addition 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 courses. There is an increasing focus on QQI (formerly FETAC) accreditation as the modular structure is suitable to the needs of students in prison. The budget for Educational Services in Irish Prisons for 2016 is €1.265 million. This budget covers equipment and supplies for educational centres across all prisons.