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Question

548. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which prisoners who have completed their sentence are assessed prior to their release to determine their likelihood of re-offending or of becoming a threat to the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20848/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised that the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service 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.
Where the Courts have ordered the post-release supervision of offenders on completion of sentence, or in the case of life-sentenced prisoners released on reviewable conditional release by the Irish Prison Service, prison-based Probation Officers complete appropriate risk assessments to inform future case management. This case management is undertaken by Probation Officers in the community for the duration of the specified community sanction.
Newly committed prisoners with a sentence of greater than one year are eligible to take part in Integrated Sentence Management (ISM). This involves a specific orientation in the delivery of all rehabilitative prison-based services to prisoners and an emphasis on prisoners taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services while in prison. The end result is a prisoner-centred, multi-disciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.
The guiding principle which underpins education and work and training services in prisons is to make available, work, work-training, education and other purposeful activities to all those in custody. Training and education activities endeavour to meet the needs of prisoners through helping them cope with their sentence, achieve personal development and prepare for life after release.
A primary function of the Psychology Service in prisons is to assist offenders address factors that place them at risk of re-offending including inter alia; anger issues, substance abuse, sexual and violent offending. The service delivers the Building Better Lives programme for sex offenders in Arbour Hill and a similar programme for violent offenders in Wheatfield Place of Detention. The Irish Prison Service continue to ensure that all appropriate efforts are made to work with sex offenders to ensure the risk of re- offending after release is reduced to the greatest extent possible and that they are supported in reintegrating into the community. A Joint Irish Prison Service/Probation Service working group has been established to review sex offenders’ risk and offence related issues.
Local review meetings are held in prisons on a monthly basis where prisoners' sentence progression are discussed. These meetings facilitate the exchange of information and aid decision making with respect to the management of prisoners' sentences. They are chaired by the Governor with the attendance of senior prison management, Probation staff, Chaplains, Teachers, other prison staff and an official from the Prisons Service Headquarters. Part of the discussions cover the risk of re-offending on release and the risk of failing to comply with temporary release conditions are discussed, generally in the case of prisoners being assessed for early release.
I can advise the Deputy that a new pre-release planning policy for the Irish Prison Service is at an advanced stage and will represent considerable improvements to current pre-release planning and practices in Irish prisons. This policy will address issues arising for the individual in custody under six key pillars : Housing/Accommodation Needs, Financial Supports, Healthcare, Public Safety and Statutory Requirements, Families & Personal Relationships, Education, Training and Employment.
A new central information window on the electronic Prisoner Information Management System (PIMS) is under development to support this policy. This new window will record a range of information with regard to post-release concerns and sentence plans for individual prisoners. It is the aim of the Irish Prison Service that all releases from Irish prisons and places of detention are planned releases to ensure the informed and effective transition of the offender from prison to the community, in compliance with statutory, legal and sentencing provisions.