100. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the operation of the regime management plan in the Midlands Prison; the impact of the plan on the operation of the prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24715/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I have been advised by the Irish Prison Service that a Regime Management Plan is a management tool to optimise the delivery of structured prisoner activities when reduced staffing levels are encountered through vacancies or the increased demand on available resources including the provision of escorts to courts and hospitals. The application of a Plan ensures a safe working environment for staff and a safe environment for prisoners.
The Plan is heavily focussed on ensuring the continued delivery of structured activities to prisoners and on encouraging prisoners to engage in structured activities by prioritising the assignment of staff to these services, while continuing to prioritise security, safe custody and the safety of staff.
There are clear advantages to the implementation of a Regime Management Plan to address staff shortages and prioritise the tasks that can be delivered at prison level. It should be noted that the objective of a Plan is to direct resources at prisoners who wish to engage in constructive activities and to afford other prisoners the opportunity to avail of out of cell time for exercise and recreation. All prisons have introduced a Regime Management Plan in recent years.
The Regime Management Plan implemented in the Midlands Prison is prioritising constructive out of cell time which includes work and training, education, physical and mental health, engagement with therapeutic services, ahead of non-constructive activities which include access to exercise yards. Exercise yards and recreation areas are prioritised in the evenings and at weekends. All prisoners who wish to engage with structured activities are being interviewed with a view to creating a timetable for each which maximises attendance at structured activity and minimise time spent in cell.
Finally, I have been informed by the IPS that less than 6% of posts in the Midlands are currently vacant. This small shortfall in resources is being addressed with the ongoing recruitment of RPOs and Midlands together with other prisons in the estate are assigned Officers as they complete training.