Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
58. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which habitual offenders are facilitated with early release; the number of such offenders released prior to the completion of their sentence in 2016 to date; if any, all or none of such prisoners were offered or received educational or rehabilitative training while in prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34830/16]
As previously advised to the Deputy, I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that they do not collate information in the format requested by the Deputy.
I can advise the Deputy that provisional figures for 2016 show a total of 7,171 prisoners were granted Full or Reviewable Temporary Release in the period 1 January 2016 to 10 November 2016. A significant number of these, 6,434, were persons imprisoned for very short periods for non-payment of fines, who were granted early release shortly thereafter. The Irish Prison Service publishes figures in relation to the number of prisoners currently on temporary release on their website www.irishprisons.ie on a daily basis.
Each application for Temporary Release is considered on its individual merits and a number of factors are taken into account when making a decision on whether to grant temporary release including the nature of the offence, whether or not the person is a first-time offender, and whether the person poses a threat to public safety.
The Irish Prison Service Recidivism study for 2010 shows that 2,561 persons out of a total of 9,339 that were released in that year went on to re-offend within the first 6 months of release. As well as offences committed after expiration of sentence,this figure also includes offences committed before their official release date and this would take account of crimes committed while on early release, day release, and compassionate release. It also includes offences committed while in custody such as assaults and possession of mobile phones.
These figures were produced in partnership with the Central Statistics Office using a combination of Garda Síochána and Irish Prison Service records, based on the Irish Crime Classification System. The study, which was published on 10 November 2016, looked at the available data up to the end of 2013 to take account of the time to make a conviction and a broader 3 year analysis of recidivism.
I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that literacy supports form an important element of the prison education curriculum. The literacy curriculum concentrates on the needs of the individual and aims to improve self-esteem and build confidence.
All prisoners who come into the Education Centre of each prison have an individual interview to assess their educational attainments, needs and interests. Those with literacy difficulties are identified at this stage and are prioritised for support. Such prisoners are asked to undertake the Adult Basic Education test to assess their literacy levels.
The Irish Prison Service is currently exploring the feasibility of surveying the prison population using the 8 key competences for lifelong learning as defined by the European Commission. These include literacy and language competence along with mathematical and digital competence. Expressions of Interest have been sought from Irish Universities to enter into a research partnership with the Irish Prison Service to undertake this survey.
I can inform the Deputy that the education service in Irish Prisons devotes considerable resources to the provision of basic literacy education for persons in custody. In conjunction with this professional service the Irish Prison Service facilitates a peer led basic literacy service amongst persons in custody called “Toe by Toe” where those with poor literacy and/or learning difficulties are mentored by individual volunteers who are also persons in custody but who receive specific training in this regard.
The Department of Education & Skills on a partnership basis provides the Irish Prison Service with 220 whole time equivalent teaching posts. I am informed by officials in the Irish Prison Service that many of these educators have completed modular courses in dyslexia, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), adult literacy etc, and frequently work with students in prison on a one-to-one basis.