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Question

158. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will implement the Irish Prison Service's families and imprisonment strategy; the level of resourcing she has allocated to this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12675/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the Families and Imprisonment Strategy implementation is progressing as planned. The Irish Prison Service (IPS) Strategic Plan sets out the commitment of the Irish Prison Service to strengthen family supports to facilitate on-going contact with prisoners while in custody and their reintegration post release, with appropriate supports and programmes.
The Director General of the Irish Prison Service established the Families & Imprisonment Group (FIG), and tasked the group with examining existing visiting facilities for all prisoners and in particular to address the needs of children and families as highlighted in the report published by the Irish Penal Reform Trust titled "Picking up the Pieces: The Rights and Needs of Children and Families Affected by Imprisonment".
The Families & Imprisonment Implementation Group is currently overseeing the delivery of the actions identified and is chaired by a prison Governor and includes representatives from the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI), the Psychology Service, the Probation Service, the Prison Officer's Association and Tusla. A key goal is to establish a model of through-care to parents returning to the community in partnership with Tusla and other community based organisations.
Following a period of consultation with a range of non-government organisations, the Irish Prison Service forged a partnership with the Childhood Development Initiative and the Parents Plus Charity to introduce a dedicated family and imprisonment programme on a pilot basis 'Family Links' which commenced in Limerick Prison in September 2014 with the aim to improve the visiting experience for families, improve staff awareness of the effects of imprisonment on families, and to support the family unit with the introduction of a parenting programme.
As part of this initiative, Limerick Prison has radically changed the design for visits in the C Block. The visiting room now consists of eight round tables with four chairs around each in a warm and colourful environment, prisoners on standard regime have access to this style of visit. Limerick Prison has also established a ‘family room’ which is available to prisoners on an enhanced regime.
Limerick Prison has worked closely with the Irish Prison Service Training College and the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) in developing and delivering a number of learning and development programmes. Training have been delivered to over 40 staff to include: (1) 'Front-of-House' training to improve customer service, and increase awareness of the challenges faced by families with a loved one in custody; (2) Family Liaison Officer training to support the prisoners in their role as parents and to co-deliver the Parents Plus parenting course to prisoners; and, (3) Children First awareness training. Further staff training is planned for the second quarter of 2016.
The Parents Plus Charity and Childhood Development Initiative have worked with the Irish Prison Service to tailor the ‘Parents Plus’ parenting programme to meet the need of parents in prison. Family Liaison Officers in Limerick Prison facilitate parenting skills course for prisoners, and ‘Bedford Row’ charity works simultaneously to deliver the parenting programme in the community. This programme has been successfully delivered to 24 prisoners. A review of the 'Parents Plus' programme by University of Limerick is currently underway which will inform future development.
Further small capital projects are underway to enhance visit facilities across the prison estate. Funding was awarded to St. Vincent de Paul to extend their Visitor Centre facilities to Wheatfield Prison. The Irish Prison Service has recently allocated funding to appoint a Family Links Coordinator and to extend the Family Links model to Wheatfield Prison in 2016 and Cork Prison in 2017. This will commence with staff training for Wheatfield Prison staff in Summer 2016 and delivery of the first 'Parents Plus' parenting programme in partnership with Tusla to families in Wheatfield Prison in Autumn 2016.