Justice | Access to educational and rehabilitation facilities in prisons
To ask the Minister for Justice the extent to which educational and rehabilitation facilities remain available in all the prisons throughout the country; the extent to which first-time offenders have access to such services; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of educational and rehabilitation facilities to those in custody that aim to offer purposeful activity to prisoners while serving their sentences and encourage them to lead law abiding lives on release. All prisoners are eligible and allowed to use the services, including those who are first-time offenders. There is no application process and the Service does not collect data on the number of first time offenders who availed of these services.
The Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2019 – 2022 commits to further develop the integration of prisoner care and support services to deliver more effective rehabilitation to prisoners. It aims to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management to maximise the potential engagement of prisoners in constructive and structured activities during their time in custody. The Service actively encourages all prisoners to participate in constructive and rehabilitative opportunities available by providing rewards under an Incentivised Regimes Policy.
The Joint Irish Prison Service/ETBI Education Strategy 2019 – 2022 commits to the provision of broad based education. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole time teacher equivalents. The focus is on providing education which is quality assured, student centred and which facilitates lifelong learning.
As well as seeking to draw on best practice in adult and further education in the community, curriculum development that is specific to prison circumstances has taken place, such as courses on addiction, health issues and offending behaviour. Other areas where there have been significant progress in prison education are in physical education, in the provision for higher education, in the arts, in preparing prisoners for release and supporting their transition to life, and often to education on the outside.
The prisons’ Work and Training service make available work, work-training and other purposeful activities to all those in custody. Work Training Officers have been appointed and assigned to areas such as catering, laundry, industrial cleaning and industrial skills.
The “Working to Change Social Enterprise and Employment Strategy – 2021-2023” sets out my Department’s direction for supporting employment options for people with convictions by simultaneously working to remove systemic barriers so that people can make sustainable changes. It builds upon a solid foundation of employment supports already in place across the criminal justice sector and is a collaboration between the Prison and Probation Service and my Department.
The Prison Psychology Service provide assessment and intervention for all individuals in custody and operates a ‘proactive’ referral service for particular cohorts of people in custody. The Psychology Service proactively engages with the following groups of people
- 18 – 24 year olds who are committed to custody with a sentence of one year or more, without Post Release Supervision with the Probation Service;
- People committed to custody with a sentence of two years or more for a violent offence, without Post Release Supervision with the Probation Service;
- People convicted of sexual violence;
- People sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Probation Service have joined this initiative by engaging in assessments with those 18-24 year olds who have post release supervision orders. This multi-agency approach to offender management and rehabilitation is in place in order to reduce re-offending and improve prisoner outcomes.
Since 2020, due to the pandemic, every effort is made to ensure the delivery of services continued in so far as possible, with course materials and books delivered to people in cells if, for example, they were in quarantine. A TV Information Channel was also developed and a Covid Communications Group consisting of Red Cross, Healthcare, Psychology, Education, Chaplains, Resettlement member produced regular Prisoner Newsletters (also translated into the main languages) which were delivered to people in custody, to ensure they were kept up-to-date with information and any changes regarding rehabilitation, including educational and library services.
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