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Question

511. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the impact of cutbacks in prison officer numbers, which lead, on a regular basis, to prisoners not being released from their cells at the appropriate time in the morning and going into lock-up earlier in the evenings, resulting in an increase in time spent on lock-up; the action she will take on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20459/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that there is no practice in place of prisoners not being released from their cells at the appropriate time in the morning, and going into lock-up earlier in the evenings, There are occasions when, for various reasons, delays in moving prisoners to schools, workshops etc, do occur, but these are not as a result of staff cutbacks.
While there has been a reduction in the staffing levels in the IPS, this has been as a result of controlled reductions as set out in the Croke Park Agreement and the Haddington Road Agreement and is in line with Government policy to reduce Public Service numbers. However, it should be noted that these reductions have not changed the standard prison day or the periods of unlock. It should also be pointed out that the number of people in custody as decreased significantly over the period April 2013 to April 2015, from 4,283 to 3,747 respectively, representing a decrease of 12.5%. Furthermore, the Ratio of Prison Staff to Prisoners over the same period has increased from 0.67 to 0.76.

Date Staff Number Prison Number Ratio
End April 2015 2865 3747 .76
End April 2013 2900 4283 .67

The Irish Prison Service endeavours to deliver a broad and flexible curriculum in both education and work and training services, in line with the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan. These include the provision of a wide range of rehabilitative programmes such as education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services and these programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services.
This table shows the most recent figures available (March 2015) of the average prisoner participation in education and vocational training. It should be noted that a prisoner may participate in more than one activity.
Institution Education - Average Prisoner Participation in March 2015 Vocational Training - Average Prisoner Participation in March 2015 Average number in custody on March 2015
Arbour Hill 97 98 140
Castlerea 139 119 321
Cloverhill 68 34 344
Cork 145 90 217
Dochas 64 29 115
Limerick 122 45 239
Loughan House 103 81 122
Midlands 368 149 814
Mountjoy 128 87 548
Portlaoise 112 38 221
Shelton Abbey 61 59 105
St Patrick's Institution 99 24 10
Training Unit 39 60 92
Wheatfield 139 137 485
Total Average Participation 1,684 1,050 3,773