Clare questions the Minister for Justice regarding the need to address the flawed policy of sending women to prison; the ongoing efforts needed to tackle drugs inside Irish prisons, and the cutbacks in treatment available for those who want to deal with their addiction….
For Oral Answer on : 19/10/2017
Question Number(s): 10 Question Reference(s): 44225/17
Department: Justice and Equality
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality further to parliamentary question numbers 233 and 234 of 10 October 2017, his plans to rethink his strategy in relation to women with regard to the building of a larger prison facility and the promotion of step down facilities rather than non custodial alternatives and supported independent living.
I wish to 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 being at low risk of re-offending.
This commitment was acknowledged in the Report on the Strategic Review of Penal Policy which also recommended a greater focus on step down facilities, supported accommodation, the 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 recommended that rather than developing an open centre, a more practical and cost effective way to address the deficit was to pursue step down facilities for women.
I am delighted to be able to support this very important initiative and the Deputy will be aware that I announced additional funding for the Irish Prison Service in 2018 to advance the project.
Significant progress has been achieved already to advance this initiative. Approval was given to the Heads of the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service to proceed to scope the possibilities for the development of a step down unit in Dublin. In July 2016, an Expressions of Interest document was approved and issued, the first step in establishing a step down facility for women in the Dublin area. As a positive response was received from relevant service providers, it was then decided to proceed to tender. The Irish Prison Service and Probation Service are currently advancing the tender documentation with the assistance of the Office of Government Procurement.
As part of this contract, the service provider will be required to provide accommodation for 10 women. The provider will coordinate individualised care plans for this vulnerable group with complex needs, linking women to a variety of community based services and equipping them with skills to move towards independent living.
Building works on a new development for females in Limerick Prison will commence in early 2018. When completed, it will provide 42 single occupancy rooms and an additional 8 independent living areas. This standalone facility within the prison, with all the required ancillary services, will enhance the regimes and supports available to women.
I am satisfied that in light of the above, and the thorough consideration of the issues involved, that the correct course is currently being pursued.
For Oral Answer on : 19/10/2017
Question Number(s): 36 Question Reference(s): 44226/17
Department: Justice and Equality
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the initiatives he has taken or the progress made in relation to dealing with drugs entering prisons and drug treatment in prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am advised by my officials that the Irish Prison Service policy ‘Keeping Drugs out of Prison’ was introduced in 2006 to address many aspects of drug use in prison, including measures to reduce the use of illegal drugs in the prison setting.
In 2008, the Operational Support Group was established which received resources and investment in order to implement the key objectives of Keeping Drugs out of Prison. A key role of the Operational Support Group is to support governors in implementing Government policy, including the prevention of the smuggling of contraband (including drugs) into prisons, the detection and prevention of illegal activity within the prison Estate and intelligence-gathering. A further initiative of the Operational Support Group was to introduce a confidential telephone line which allows prisoners and members of the public to alert prison authorities to activities surrounding the smuggling of drugs into prisons and the use of them therein. This confidential telephone line has assisted prison management in thwarting many attempts to smuggle drugs into prisons.
I am further advised by the Irish Prison Service that any prisoner who enters the custody of the Irish Prison Services while presenting with addiction issues has access to addiction services, and is actively encouraged to engage with those services.
The treatments available are based on the principles of best practice, and are similar to those available in the community setting. This includes access to harm reduction methods, detoxification, stabilisation, and opiate replacement therapies. These interventions are based on a multi-professional approach to ensure that the prisoners motivation, commitment and likelihood of success are always at the centre of planned care.
The Irish Prison Service has advised that the healthcare team which delivers these treatments include, inter alia, GP Specialist Addiction services, Consultant Addiction psychiatrist, specialist addiction nurses, addiction counsellors, addiction links workers, pharmacists, primary care GP’s, and prison nurses.
The Irish Prison Service also works very closely with the Probation Service, community, voluntary, and statutory agencies to maintain a pathway of care ensuring supports remain in place for prisoners on their release from custody.
All prisoners have access to group and individual counselling services where they can address their own personal requirements, and specific support arrangements can be put in place and implemented during the prisoners period in custody. The prisoner can also benefit from peer support groups, music therapy, and a 9 week psycho-social based programme similar to community residential treatment services, which assists the person in remaining drug free.