CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

 

Governor Murphy, invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to be here in Mountjoy this morning to launch the Jobs and Opportunities Expo.  I would like to thank the Irish Prison Service and the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) for the kind invitation to attend and address you here, today.

 

I wish to first of all commend the staff of Mountjoy prison for hosting this event which showcases the skills and talents that are on offer.  I saw for myself the creative talent that exists among our prison population across all of our prisons when I opened the national prisoner art exhibition in March this year at the CHQ Building. 

 

I wish to acknowledge the staff of the Irish Prison Service and all those who work with people in custody especially today those who provide the training and education to prisoners. The results of their work can be clearly seen here today.

 

A key Strategic Aim of the Irish Prison Service, contained in its 3-Year Strategic plan published last year, is Prisoner Support. The Service is placing renewed emphasis on prisoner rehabilitation by further developing and re-engineering services designed to address the factors that contribute to offending.

 

Today’s event provides an opportunity for prisoners approaching release and who are job-ready, to present the skills and qualifications that they have attained and to meet directly with employers. The support for this event by Patricia Callan on behalf of IBEC sends a very strong signal to employers that there is a talent pool available and support structures in place, to meet their employment needs.  I wish to endorse this message and to offer my full support for this initiative.

 

The Irish Prison Service, as an executive agency of the Department of Justice and Equality provides a wide range of training and upskilling opportunities to those in custody.  These range from catering and laundry skills to industrial cleaning, construction, horticulture and I.T.  Training is provided to an accredited standard in all of these areas. The IPS also works in partnership with the Education and Training Boards to deliver a broadly based education service that includes basic literacy and numeracy programmes, state examinations (Junior and Leaving Cert subjects), QQI certified programmes and Open University.  These are complemented by adult education programmes offering soft skills, creative arts, release preparation and physical education.

 

We know from research evidence that there are many factors that contribute to desistence from crime.  Chief among these is securing stable and gainful employment.  We also know that the complex needs of people in custody require a joined up, multi-agency approach and that responsibility for real success extends beyond the criminal justice system, including state agencies, the community sector and employers.

 

On Monday last, here in Mountjoy, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, launched a social enterprise strategy for the justice sector.  This strategy is a new departure for the Department and for the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service and it recognises both the potential that exists to create work integration opportunities for ex-offenders in the social enterprise sector, but also the formidable challenges that need to be addressed in order to secure employment for people with criminal convictions.

 

It is clearly in all of our interests that we reduce crime levels and reduce recidivism, making our communities safer for everybody and reducing the heavy cost of crime on our society.

 

I think that it is important that I acknowledge the excellent work that has been carried out by IASIO over recent years with offenders, and the contribution of its Board and of its staff under its CEO Paddy RichardsonThe supports provided by IASIO through its LINKAGE, GATE and RESETTLEMENT services make a valuable contribution to reducing offending levels and securing pathways away from criminal behaviour.  The Training and Employment Officers, employed by IASIO both in prisons and in the community and funded by my Department, assist offenders to develop plans which will enable them to better re-integrate into the working community following their release. The GATE programme for example, includes the provision of a guidance and placement service within the prison, and the identification of training, education and employment opportunities appropriate to the particular offender and helps them to make a range of informed and supported choices as the first steps in being capable of seeking and obtaining employment.

 

Finally, I would like once again to congratulate everyone who has been involved in the organisation of today’s innovative event. I hope that it will be a success for everyone and that building on the learning from today’s Expo, that similar events will take place across the prison estate in the near future. I look forward to hearing of the continued success of your collective efforts to ensure improved outcomes for people in custody as they make positive changes in their lives which will in turn contribute to a safer and more secure society.

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