354. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if provision is in place to grade applicants for rehabilitative training and education in order to ensure the maximum benefit to the prisoner, with the objective of encouraging the pursuit of a life outside crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42921/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the the Irish Prison Service that it provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes to those 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 prisoners are eligible to use the services.
On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. Prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date.
The development of prisoner programmes forms a central part of the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012 - 2015. There is a clear commitment to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes.
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 prisoners cope with their sentence, achieve personal development and prepare for life after release.
A top priority for the Irish Prison Service is ensuring help for those with reading and writing problems and peer mentoring programmes are currently active in all of our prisons.
The guiding principles which underpin the prisons' work and training service are to make available, work, work-training and other purposeful activities to all 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 skills which will help them secure employment on release.
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.