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Question

162. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the post-release reintegration service and supports available to prisoners and the level of resources she has allocated to them. [12679/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the service is committed to managing custodial sentences in a way which encourages and supports prisoners in their endeavouring to live law abiding and purposeful lives as valued members of society. In order to achieve this aim the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service have a multi-agency approach involving considerable resources devoted 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.
In addition the Prison Service provide a range of services to prisoners to enhance their chance of successful reintegration.
The Integrated Sentence Management process is a prisoner-centred, multi-disciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.
A primary function of the Psychology Service in prisons is to assist offenders address factors that place them at risk of re-offending including emotional regulation, mental health, substance abuse, sexual and violent offending. The guiding principle which underpins the Prison Education Service and the Prison Work and Training Service is to make available work, work-training, education and other purposeful activities to assist offenders cope with their sentence, achieve personal development and prepare for life after release.
The Chaplaincy Service provides pastoral and spiritual care to any prisoners who wish to avail of the service. The Irish Prison Service provides funding to the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) for two operational services, the 'Gate' Service and the Resettlement Service.
The 'Gaining Access to Training and Employment' (GATE) Service is a vocational service that offers guidance counselling and placement supports to referred prisoners with the overall aim of securing a placement in training or employment post-release. The Resettlement Service is a primary needs resettlement support service for prisoners with less than 18 months left to serve. The Resettlement Service provides one-to-one support from the prison to the community. Since 2007, the Irish Prison Service has engaged Merchant's Quay Ireland to develop and deliver an effective prison-based Addiction Counselling Service.
Local review meetings are held in prisons on a regular basis where a prisoner’s sentence progression is discussed. They are chaired by the Governor with the attendance of all members of the prison-based multi-disciplinary team. Elements of these review discussions include the risk of re-offending on release, risk of homelessness on release, and proposed supports pre – and post- release in the case of prisoners being assessed for early release.
The Community Return Programme is an incentivised early release scheme co-managed by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service. This involves an initiative whereby carefully selected prisoners can be granted reviewable temporary release coupled with a requirement to do community service work in a supervised group setting. In addition a Community Support Scheme has been introduced to reduce recidivism rates of short-term prisoners by arranging for additional support structures post release and by providing for a more structured form of temporary release.
The Irish Prison Service are actively engaged with senior management in the Department of Social Protection and Department of Environment with an overall aim of establishing a protocol between departments for the case management of offenders who are at risk of homelessness.
A new release planning policy for the Irish Prison Service will shortly be put into place 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.