217. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which first-time offenders continue to be segregated from the hardened criminal fraternity while in prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35737/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will be aware there is a standard operational procedure in place to ensure that upon committal, all offenders are assessed and accommodated appropriately according to their needs and specific security status. Dedicated committals units have been established in all committal prisons for this purpose.
To segregate first time committals from the general prisoner population would greatly reduce their access to services.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes that include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. 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. At this point prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date. Where Governors consider, on the information available, that a prisoner needs a particular intervention they will initiate a referral.