168. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality to prioritise Ireland’s human rights obligations by prioritising the development of smaller local prisons and open and low-security options, in order to enhance the economic efficiency of the system and to allow the development of more effective and constructive regimes. [12696/16]


Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): There are no plans to develop any new sites for male offenders.
I can advise the Deputy that in the joint Probation Service/Irish Prison Service Women's Strategy 2014-2016, An Effective Response to Women Who Offend, published in 2014, the Irish Prison Service made a commitment to explore the development of an open centre/open conditions for women assessed as low risk of re-offending.
This commitment was acknowledged in the Report on the Strategic Review of Penal Policy which also recommended that a greater focus on step down facilities, supported accommodation, use of more community based open conditions for female offenders and the provision of an open centre for women.
A joint Irish Prison Service/Probation Service working group considered an open centre for women and decided to recommend, rather than developing an open centre for women, that a more practical and cost effective way to address the deficit is to pursue step down facilities for women. In this regard, I have given approval to the Heads of the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service to proceed to scope the possibilities for the development of step down units for female offenders and female ex-offenders.