Topical Issue Debate
The Inspector of Prisons’ Report titled “Culture and Organisation in the Irish Prison Service – A Road Map for the Future”.
5th November, 2015
On behalf of the Minister, who unfortunately cannot be here today, I would like to begin by thanking Deputy Daly for raising this important matter.
The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, with the assistance of Professor Andrew Coyle, carried out an assessment of the current culture within the Irish Prison Service and the extent to which it facilitates or hinders the development of the service.
The Inspector officially presented his Report to the Minister Justice and Equality, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday 3rd November 2015 and on behalf of the Minister I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank the Inspector and Professor Coyle for all of their hard work in bringing this Report to fruition.
This is the first time that an Inspector of Prisons, who is independent of the Government, has embarked on this type of review into the prevailing culture of the Irish Prison Service.
I welcome this Report which focuses on two key issues, the structure of the Irish Prison Service and the training and development of personnel. The Report contains many recommendations; and it 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. As the Inspector said at the time of announcing this review, there have been positive developments in recent years. Much has been done to address the many issues which have adversely affected our prison system for decades. For example:
- ‘slopping-out’ is being eliminated;
- the modernisation of the accommodation wings in Mountjoy is now complete;
- the new Cork prison will be ready for occupation early in the new year;
- a significant redevelopment project for Limerick is planned;
- we are well on our way to fulfilling the commitment in the current Programme for Government to end the practice of sending children to St Patrick’s Institution; and
- we are currently examining options to improve the detention and rehabilitative systems for female offenders.
But the Minister believes more can be done if we build on the investment already made by Government, management and staff of the Irish Prison Service at all levels.
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 report also expresses concerns regarding ‘gang culture in our prisons. Earlier this week Minister Fitzgerald joined the Garda Commissioner as she launched Operation Thor - a new anti-burglary and anti-crime strategy. This included a new targeted approach to disrupting criminal gangs - an effort backed by investment by Government in both overtime and new high-powered vehicles.
As Minister Fitzgerald said on Tuesday at the launch of the Report she believes that there should no place for gangs operating in the community and no place for ‘gang culture’ in our prisons. The Minister has asked the Director-General of the Irish Prison Service to provide her with a comprehensive response to the report’s concerns in relation to ‘gang culture’ in our prisons.