314. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which investment in rehabilitative training within the prison system continues to be made available to first-time offenders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58164/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Prisoner care and rehabilitation is a core aim of the Irish Prison Service. Various forms of rehabilitative training within the prison system continue to be made available to all prisoners, including first time offenders.
A range of programmes including education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, addiction counselling, welfare and spiritual services are provided with the aim of offering purposeful activity to all those in custody while serving their sentences.
There is a clear commitment to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes. The Joint Irish Prison Service/ETBI Education Strategy 2019 - 2021 sets out a commitment to the provision of broad based education provision and includes supporting integration and sentence planning. Education in prisons is delivered in partnership between the Education Training Boards and the Prison Service and a broad and flexible curriculum is provided. A top priority for the Service is ensuring support for those with literacy problems, and to this end, peer mentoring programmes are active in all prisons.
The guiding principles which underpin the prisons' work and training service provision are to make available work, work-training and other purposeful activities to all those in custody. Activities are chosen to give as much variety as possible and also to give opportunities to acquire practical skills which will help secure employment on release. Work Training Officers have been appointed and assigned to areas such as catering, laundry, industrial cleaning and industrial skills.
The 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 Guild of Cleaners and Launderers; Cleanpass and the centralising of coordination and quality assurance arrangements have enabled the Prison Service to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification to people in custody. Significant progress in prison education has also been made in physical education, in the provision for higher education, in the arts and in preparing people for release.
The "Working to Change Social Enterprise Strategy - 2021-2023" sets out my Department’s direction for supporting employment options for people with convictions by simultaneously working to remove systemic barriers so that people can make sustainable changes. It builds upon a solid foundation of employment supports already in place across the criminal justice sector and is a collaboration between the Prison and Probation Service and my Department.
In addition, the Psychology Service proactively targets specific cohorts of prisoners including violent offenders with over two year sentence, as well as 18-24 year olds in custody. Assistant Psychologists focus primarily on mental health and sentence management work with prisoners and are tasked with engaging and motivating this cohort of prisoners, who are committed to custody on a sentence of one year or more and who do not have a post-release supervision order to develop a sentence plan and to engage in appropriate interventions.
The Probation Service have joined this initiative by engaging in assessments with those 18-24 year olds who have post release supervision orders. The strategic objective is to have a multi-agency approach to offender management and rehabilitation from pre to post imprisonment in order to reduce re-offending and improve prisoner outcomes. This forms a central part of the Prison and Probation Service Joint Strategic Plan.