24th November, 2015

 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald T.D., today published the Annual Reports for 2014 of the Wheatfield Place of Detention and Portlaoise Prison Visiting Committees.

 

The function of Visiting Committees is to visit the prison to which they are appointed and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. The Committees play a vital role in ensuring the quality of accommodation, catering, medical, educational, welfare and recreational facilities reach and remain at acceptable levels.

 

The Minister said “I welcome these positive reports and once again wish to thank the Visiting Committees for their work. While the reports speak for themselves I am pleased to note the general praise for the training and educational programmes and services in both Portlaoise Prison and Wheatfield Place of Detention. This is testament to the good work carried out on a daily basis by staff of the Irish Prison Service.”

 

The Wheatfield Place of Detention Committee refers to the delay in moving juvenile prisoners to Oberstown. The Minister stated that “the Government is committed to ending the practice of sending children to St. Patrick’s Institution. Significant progress has been made by my own Department and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in fulfilling that commitment. Responsibility for 16 year old boys was transferred from the Irish Prison Service to the children detention facilities at Oberstown in May 2012. Since December 2013, all boys aged 17 years sentenced to detention in St. Patrick’s have been transferred to dedicated units in Wheatfield Place of Detention. Boys aged 17 remanded in custody to St. Patrick’s Institution remain the responsibility of the Irish Prison Service pending the transfer of responsibility for this category of offender to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs shortly. The Oberstown campus commenced taking 17 year old males who are newly remanded in custody since Monday 30 March 2015. This is a further step towards the implementation of the Programme for Government commitment to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities.”

 

The Wheatfield committee also refers to staff morale. Minister Fitzgerald stated that “the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, recently carried out an assessment of the current culture within the Irish Prison Service and officially presented his Report to me on 3rd November 2015.

 

"I welcome this Report which contains many recommendations and seeks to provide a roadmap for the future. The Report will make a positive contribution to the reforms already underway in the Irish Prison Service. While highlighting challenges, I welcome the fact that the Report also acknowledges the many positive aspects of the service, including the dedication of its staff.

 

"The Inspector’s Report is far reaching and is an important contribution to the reform of the criminal justice system. My officials and I will need time to consider it and how its recommendations might best be implemented.

 

"Finally, the Report will also inform the next Irish Prison Service 3 year Strategic Plan 2015 – 2018 which will focus on building relationships, rehabilitative measures, efforts to reduce re-offending, and the further development of penal policy to realise the vision of a safer community through excellence in a prison service built on respect for human dignity."

 

The Reports, along with previous Reports, are available on the Department’s website www.justice.ie

To see the Prison Visiting Committee’s Annual Reports for 2014 of the Wheatfield Place of Detention – click here

To see the Prison Visiting Committee’s Annual Reports for 2014 Portlaoise Prison – click here

 

ENDS