Vote 21 - Prisons

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll (Secretary General, Department of Justice and Equality) and Ms Caron McCaffrey (Director General, Irish Prison Service) called and examined.

Today, we will examine the Appropriation Accounts for 2017 for Vote 21, for the Prison Service. We are dealing specifically with prisons and will address the justice Vote at the next meeting. We are joined by the Accounting Officer for the Department of Justice and Equality, who is also Accounting Office for the Prison Service. This is Mr. O'Driscoll's first time here in his new role. We welcome him. Ms McCaffrey is also new to her role. When did she take up the position?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

On 13 December 2018.

That is just a month ago. I wish Ms McCaffrey the best. We are joined by Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll, Secretary General, Mr. Michael Flahive, assistant secretary, Mr. Seamus Clifford, principal officer, Mr. Noel Dowling, principal officer, and Ms Anne Marie Treacy, assistant principal officer. From the Irish Prison Service, we are joined by Ms Caron McCaffrey, director general, Mr. Don Culliton, director of human resources, Mr. Derek Caldbeck, director of finance and estates, and Mr. John McDermott from the office of the director general. We are also joined by Mr. John Burke from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I remind witnesses and those in the Public Gallery that all mobile phones are to be switched off or put on airplane mode, because merely putting them on silent can still interfere with the recording system.

I advise witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members of the committee are reminded of the provisions of Standing Order 186 to the effect that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policies. While we expect witnesses to answer questions put by the committee clearly and with candour, witnesses can and should expect to be treated fairly and with respect and consideration at all times, in accordance with the witness protocol.

We will start with the opening statement of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The Irish Prison Service is formally part of the Department of Justice and Equality but in effect is operated as an executive agency and is funded and accounted for separately through Vote 21. While the Secretary General of the Department is the Accounting Officer for Vote 21, the service is headed operationally by the director general and is administered centrally from headquarters located in Longford town. The Department has policy and legislative responsibility for the service. The 2017 Appropriation Account for Vote 21 records gross expenditure of just under €327 million in the year. As indicated in the figure on screen, more than two thirds of the expenditure related to pay. The remainder relates to maintenance and improvements to the prison estate and equipment purchases, services for prisoners including education provision, and other operating costs. Cash receipts for the year amounted to €13.1 million and comprised mainly retained pension related deductions from staff salaries. There was an underspend of €3.8 million relative to the net Estimate provision. An amount of €2.2 million was carried forward to 2018 under capital carryover provisions, leaving just under €1.6 million for surrender to the Exchequer. I draw attention in the audit report to a material level of procurement in 2017 that was not compliant with procurement rules as disclosed by the Accounting Officer in the statement on internal financial control.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I welcome the opportunity to meet the committee to discuss the 2017 appropriation account for prisons Vote. I propose to keep my opening remarks brief and hand over to the newly appointed director general of the Prison Service, Ms Caron McCaffrey, who will also make a brief opening statement. The Prison Service is a key component of the criminal justice system and its voted expenditure is directed towards one strategic programme - the provision of safe, secure, humane and rehabilitative custody for people sent to prison. As the Comptroller and Auditor General said, the gross expenditure for the Vote in 2017 was €326.9 million, of which 71% related to payroll costs, 22% related to non-pay current expenditure and 7% or €22.8 million was capital.

The Prison Service currently operates 12 prisons. There were 9,287 committals to prisons with a daily average of 3,680 prisoners in custody during 2017. In total there were 3,186 staff in the Prison Service at the end of 2017.

The Prison Service operates as an executive office of the Department of Justice and Equality within a statutory framework and policy parameters established by the Minister. The practical effect is that while the Secretary General of the day is the Accounting Officer for the Vote, the director general of the Prison Service and her team carry out the day-to-day operation of the prison system. Each year, the director general of the Prison Service and the assistant secretary in charge of prisons and probation policy agree and sign an oversight and performance agreement. This commits to a minimum of two formal governance meetings per year. Further, this is subject to a yearly review by the agency governance oversight subgroup of the Department of Justice and Equality, which conducts an annual governance overview of the bodies under the aegis of the Department and reports to the management board on any key issues arising or matters of concern.

The committee may wish to note that a number of reports over the years have recommended greater autonomy for the Prison Service from the Department. Recent reports in this regard include a report from the Inspector of Prisons of November 2015. The effectiveness and renewal group, ERG, recommended in 2018 that the Government examine converting the operational elements of the Irish Prison Service into a separate agency and the ERG may return to this issue in its next report which is due shortly. In part, what is generally envisaged is that the director general would become the appropriate authority for issues relating to staff management including disciplinary matters and possibly the Accounting Officer for expenditure on the prisons Vote. These matters are being pursued with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and in order to give them effect they will involve legislative change. This approach is consistent with the review of the governance relationship with our agencies which is taking place alongside the very significant transformation programme in the Department which I am currently leading. I am pleased to inform the committee that this project is under way with the major restructuring of the Department to be completed over the next nine months.

Penal policy is constantly evolving and the Department and its agencies continue to work towards implementing the recommendations of the penal policy review group. The recommendations of this body emphasised, among other things, the importance of interagency co-operation in the development and implementation of penal policy.

I will briefly address certain matters which have been receiving attention recently in relation to the Prison Service. A court affidavit by a serving prison officer makes allegations about activities in the Prison Service, including unauthorised surveillance. Notwithstanding that it was the subject of a newspaper article, that affidavit has not yet been opened in court and so its details cannot be publicly discussed. The committee will be aware that because the Minister was of the view that the publication of these allegations created a public concern, he asked the Inspector of Prisons to carry out an urgent preliminary investigation to determine the facts as far as possible and report to him. The investigation is now under way and we await its outcome.

I am also aware also that the committee recently met a prison officer in private session on certain matters, which I assume included reference to a protected disclosure made by the officer in question. As there are ongoing issues relating to this case, including matters before the courts, we cannot comment on the specifics of the case during today’s proceedings. However, with regard to protected disclosures generally, the Department put in place a protected disclosure policy in 2015 in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The procedures were updated in 2018 to provide for external independent assessment and investigation of disclosures made by Department staff.

Over the past three years, the Department has also engaged Transparency International Ireland, TII, to provide advice and support to disclosers and also participates in TII’s integrity at work initiative which facilitates the Department and its agencies to learn about best practice at multi-stakeholder forums and annual conferences as well as testing and developing existing policies and procedures on whistleblowing.

I will hand over at this point to the director general, Caron McCaffrey.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

A review of the protected disclosures policy for the Irish Prison Service has taken place and a revised policy was introduced in July 2018. The review was carried out to ensure that procedures regarding protected disclosures are up to date and in line with best practice and to take into account any lessons learned from protected disclosures received to date. An assessment undertaken with TII informed the review. Arising from the review, a number of new measures have been put in place in the protected disclosure process. They include independent professional advice for staff on the process and enhanced independent external assessment of disclosures including all notifications of penalisation. Employees making disclosures are now also provided with periodic and confidential feedback regarding assessment, investigation or review.

The committee has in the past expressed concern about the level of sick leave in the Prison Service. There are limited international comparators available to us as very few countries publish sick leave statistics for their prison services. However, from the figures available to us, the 2017 sick leave figure of 15.7 days per employee per year places the Irish Prison Service at the lower end of the scale when compared with other prison services. Comparable figures for 2017 show Northern Ireland reported a figure of 19.7 days, Denmark 21.9 days, Latvia 18.88 days and Slovenia 15.3 days per member of staff.

Prison staff work in an extremely challenging environment in which, on a daily basis, they face unique circumstances unlike most others in the public sector. Notwithstanding this, the Irish Prison Service is tackling the unacceptable level of sick leave we are currently experiencing in two ways - first, by providing staff with the best possible supports to target the work-related causes of sick leave and, second, through focused, structured management of all absences to identify and reduce absenteeism. The Irish Prison Service is committed to strengthening the support we provide for our staff. In addition to the employee assistance programme which has two national officers and over 40 locally appointed staff support officers, the supports in place for staff include an independent counselling service which we introduced in 2016. The service is available to all staff free of charge and provides staff with access to up to six counselling sessions for support covering a wide range of issues.

In 2019 the service will complete the introduction of the critical incident stress management model of support interventions for staff, which has been endorsed by the State Claims Agency. The model aims to minimise the emotional impact of critical incidents on staff, increase the resistance and resilience of staff to harmful stress and prevent the harmful effects on staff of such incidents by working with and supporting employees at the time of critical incidents.

I pay tribute to the employees of the Prison Service, many of whom work in a difficult and challenging environment to maintain a safe, secure and humane prison system which contributes to safer communities. Both the Secretary General and I will be happy to take any questions the committee has.

We will now move on to the members of the committee. Deputy Farrell has 20 minutes and Deputy Jonathan O'Brien has 15 minutes. The following speakers have ten minutes each: Deputy MacSharry, Deputy Kelly, Deputy Catherine Murphy and Deputy Connolly. At least six members want to get in before the divisions in the Dáil. Even if a member is mid-sentence at the end of their ten or 15 minutes, I will stop them because otherwise other members will not have time to contribute. Everyone can get back in a second time. The first six speakers have indicated they want to get in before the divisions in the Dáil. I will start with Deputy Farrell.

I will do my best to take much less than 20 minutes. I thank the witnesses for attending. If they want to contribute at any point during my questions, they should feel free to do so. That includes the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Notwithstanding the remarks on current matters before the WRC, among other things, and the whistleblower who appeared before the committee, the only observation I will make on the point is timeliness. I refer to the timeliness of responding to the issue, dealing with the issue and, in one particular instance, the timeliness of the provision of crucial information to the whistleblower which, on my observation, was very poor. I will not get into the detail of it. I do not expect the witnesses will want to either but I just wanted to put it on the record.

I thank the Comptroller and Auditor General for his work on the accounts. Two major issues jump out at me. The first is non-compliance with procurement rules and the second is the issue of the additional Vote, which as a percentage of the overall budget is quite significant. I will start with the non-compliance with national procurement rules. I would like some details. The numbers have increased quite significantly as provided for in the report. There were five urgent purchases for €0.5 million. What is deemed urgent in the Prison Service? What would urgently require €0.5 million of expenditure that could not be foreseen?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

May I take that question?

Whoever is appropriate may take it.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There are a number of circumstances where we have contracts in place that were not subject to a competitive tender. To focus specifically on the area the Deputy identified, within that category are urgent requirements and issues of security consideration. Of the five cases, which total €498,000, three related to security equipment we were not in a position to go to the market to tender on. That comprised handcuffs, an explosive detection system and the installation of security netting at a prison to combat a particular issue we have with drugs being thrown over the walls.

How did the Prison Service not foresee it would require nets? Nets have been a very common feature of the Irish Prison Service for many years. How did it not envisage it might require bomb detection equipment and why was it urgent?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

To be clear with the Deputy, there are three categories within that area - urgent requirements, specialist knowledge and security considerations. For security reasons, we are not in a position to go to the market. We would not want to have specific information available about the types of equipment we have in operation in the prison system, including about an explosive detection system and the type or model of the system we are using.

Ms McCaffrey is not talking about something one walks through or which scans.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

I see. I accept that. I will make the point about nets. They are a small thing. What about handcuffs? How was it not envisaged handcuffs would be needed?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is not that we did not envisage we needed handcuffs but for security reasons, from an operational perspective, we are not in a position to disclose publicly the type of handcuff in operation within our prison system. They fall within the security category. It is not that we did not foresee the need, it is that we do not specify details on security equipment we use within our estate.

I am confused. Handcuffs are handcuffs are handcuffs. Are they special handcuffs?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There are various types of handcuffs in use in the Prison Service. There is not one particular type of handcuff. We use different types. For security reasons, we are not in a position to provide details on the equipment used in our service.

Okay. I am still confused but I will not dwell on it. What is a proprietary purchase?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There are a number of security systems in operation in our service that relate to a sole supplier. They include some of our locking and access systems and our fire safety systems. As they are provided by a particular supplier, their servicing and maintenance can only be undertaken by that service provider. There were six such cases in 2017 which totalled €1.42 million. They will continue to be included until the systems are replaced. Similarly there are some ICT legacy systems within our organisation and the updating and maintenance of those systems can only be undertaken by one company. However, we are looking at opportunities to move away from that and develop our own in-house models. In one of the three cases in 2017, which totalled €0.396 million, we have moved towards putting in place our own system so we will not be wholly dependent on one supplier in the future.

That seems prudent. The only other matter in the non-compliance with national procurement rules is on the €5.2 million figure.

Of the 18 procurement scenarios, some are still under review. My understanding is that this is a common feature in the Prison Service where matters are being reviewed. Could Ms McCaffrey give us some of the details of this amount?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Office of Government Procurement, OGP, undertakes a great deal of tendering on behalf of the Irish Prison Service, and any delay in the OGP's tendering process gives rise to a roll-over of contracts. In 2018, that equated to €5.2 million, which included contracts for the provision of ICT, plumbing and heating supplies, bedding, dental supplies, and GP and pharmacy services. Of the 18 cases, the OGP now has contracts in place for eight. A further two have been advertised, two are under evaluation and the requirements have been specified for the outstanding six.

There has been a significant increase in the volume of instances of non-compliance. From 2012 to 2017, it increased almost fivefold from ten instances, worth just shy of €1 million, to 50 with a value of €8.8 million. The Prison Service constantly reviews how it operates procedurally as a quasi-Government department. Is there anything the service can do to improve how it operates? Is the escalation going to continue?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We are working in two ways. First, we are working with the OGP so that we are clear on its lead-in times for the awarding of contracts on our behalf. We now know that we must go 18 months in advance of an award for very technical contracts. As our contracts fall to be renewed, we will ensure to engage at the earliest possible stage with the OGP. Second, we are working internally with our director of finance to enhance the procurement skills available to us so as to ensure that our team, where appropriate, can put those contracts in place in a timely manner. This is an overall area that will be given attention and considered-----

I thank Ms McCaffrey, but I will revert to the mention of matters that should not be disclosed in the public domain. While I accept that, who on the line committee is responsible for making that determination?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

From a security perspective, that determination is made by the Irish Prison Service.

Who has oversight of that process other than the service's line committee? Does the Minister have oversight? Is there a feed-in process? Is what should and should not be disclosed discussed?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Those decisions would be taken at a Prison Service level.

I thank Ms McCaffrey. She touched upon the financial control issue in terms of procurement. There was a report on other operations of the service in, I believe, 2015. I am sorry, as I had the information in front of me a moment ago. The report was commissioned internally regarding the operation of various funds and programmes within the Irish Prison Service and a review was conducted. I will see if I can find the name of it in my documents, but it related to financial controls over the prison shop, the assisted programme fund and prisoner cash accounts. I would like to get some general information on that last item. I am intrigued as to how it can work efficiently or effectively from a cost perspective. Ms McCaffrey might be able to inform me. A review of how the service controls its financial affairs is ongoing. Ms McCaffrey might enlighten me on it, please.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We are constantly looking for opportunities to enhance our compliance, both at headquarters level and prison level. Some issues were identified through a combination of situations by our internal audit unit, the audit committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General in respect of potential risks at prison level. In response, we have put in place a business process review. It is aimed specifically at areas of administrative, operational and accounting practices at prison level with a view to strengthening the processes that are in place. In particular, the review has examined matters such as sentence calculation, HR processes and cost management and led to us introducing more than 40 new standard operating procedures, SOPs, for staff at prison level so that we can ensure that the best procedures are in place and there is good compliance with same.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Might I add to that?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

From a departmental point of view, we see the business process review as an extremely useful and good initiative by the Prison Service to improve its processes across a range of activities. As the director general stated, the review has examined HR processes, financial processes and so on and led to 40 new SOPs. In general, it reflects a desire to do things better and has been a proactive exercise by the Prison Service. I would just like to record the fact that we find that very good. It deserves commendation.

It was important to say. Anything that improves financial controls is to be welcomed.

For the want of a better description, the Prison Service effectively operates a bank for members of the public who are incarcerated. Is the administration of that a process-heavy operation? The service must have an effective computer system. Could Ms McCaffrey provide some information on it, please? I am referring to the €1 million, the €500,000 and the ongoing balance in terms of additional moneys that are available to prisoners, including whatever moneys their families provide for them.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

A bank account is maintained specifically for prisoners' personal cash and is managed by our prison finance and estates directorate. That cash comprises the gratuity payments that a prisoner might receive while in custody as well as cash that might be left in by members of the prisoner's family to purchase items in our prison shops. As prisoners leave, they receive the balance of that personal cash from their accounts. At the end of 2017, the balance of the overall account stood at approximately €450,000.

How many people are responsible for the operation of this facility?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I might ask our director of finance to respond.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

It is managed within our finance section. People at administrative level undertake a range of functions, with this one of those functions. I agree with the Deputy that it is an onerous requirement, but it is necessary for prisoners. They have an entitlement to buy whatever they want from the prison shop, and family members contribute to their bank accounts. Managing that for every single individual prisoner is an onerous obligation on our resources. A transfer is subsequently made.

Are whole-time equivalent staff working on it? Is it a full-time job or just something that needs to be-----

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

It is distributed within our finance section, but I can revert to the committee regarding whole-time equivalence. I do not know the figure.

That would be helpful. I recognise that it is an essential function that must be provided. I imagine it would be almost impossible to do it in any other manner.

Despite the insignificance of the sum, the figure for the management of petty cash jumped out at me. It was minuscule at approximately €1,000 or something along those lines. Is it recognised that there are improvements to be made in how prison officers or staff in general manage and maintain these accounts? Is there a standard operation across the board?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That is one of the areas that our business process review has been examining. It covers cash handling systems at prison level and ensuring appropriate procedures are in place to manage the imprest account, which is the account to which the Deputy referred. We are cognisant of the need to ensure proper governance of that cash.

It is an insignificant sum, but at the same time cumulatively it is not great to see a small amount of cash not being accounted for appropriately. Whether it has been misplaced, lost, spent or not recorded properly is not really the point. I would like to ask about the tuck shop. How am I doing for time? Do I have five minutes left?

The Deputy has three minutes left.

Grand. Perfect. This question is rather appropriate in the context of prisoners' injury and compensation claims. How does our figure of approximately 5% benchmark against other prison services, to the best of Ms McCaffrey's knowledge? In her opening statement, she gave us figures on absenteeism which appear to benchmark relatively well against other countries. While I welcome that, it would be useful if broader figures could be provided from the UK, in particular, because it is very close in terms of culture of employment and things like that. How does our 5% figure for claims compare internationally?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am afraid I do not have any international comparison figures available. It is certainly something we can look at and come back to the Deputy. I do not have an international comparative figure in this respect.

Okay. The ratio of the cost of legal services to the level of compensation payments - it is roughly 2:1 - is a very common theme across a lot of Government Departments. Is there a manner in which that figure can be reduced? Is the Prison Service talking about the volume of individual claimants who are dealt with individually? I ask Ms McCaffrey to comment on that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We are proactively seeking to reduce the number of claims to which we are exposed as an organisation. We have a very good working relationship with the State Claims Agency. A number of structures that are in place are aimed at reducing compensation, which will then reduce the equivalent legal costs that relate to those claims. We have a risk management liaison group in place with the State Claims Agency. Our own internal compliance executive is chaired by me. Along with every governor within our system and all of our directorate staff from headquarters, we are looking at reducing the incidence of exposure to claims. We need to learn lessons from the incidents that happen in our prisons to ensure we can get the numbers down.

Members of the public made 37 claims against the Prison Service in 2017. I presume there is a good chance that most of them have been resolved by now. What would the nature of those claims be?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Falls.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Obviously, a significant number of visitors come through our prisons each year.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The number of visitors who enter our system each year runs into the hundreds of thousands. The Deputy is absolutely right when he speaks about personal injury claims that are made by members of the public who visit our prisons.

I have two more questions, the first of which relates to the training of Prison Service personnel. I assume training in things like avoidance techniques, tactics and self-defence is provided. Is it provided by external service providers or in-house? Perhaps both forms of training are provided. I appreciate that Ms McCaffrey only took up her position on 13 December last. Does she believe it represents value for money for the Prison Service to go outside the service for training? What is the mix of the training programmes that are available?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Irish Prison Service has its own college. It is located on our campus in the midlands, so it is adjacent to both the Midlands Prison and Portlaoise Prison. We provide training to recruit prison officers. Last year, we recruited 182 new recruit officers to our service. This year, we plan to recruit approximately 200 recruit officers. The training is done between our college and Waterford Institute of Technology. Our staff get a formal qualification - the higher certificate in custodial care - from a third level institute.

I was referring more to continuous professional development.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Much of the college's time is spent training new recruits. We recently introduced continuous professional development for our staff. We see this as a really positive move. All of our staff now receive training in areas like control and restraint, which was referred to by the Deputy, on an annual basis. They also receive training in areas like mental health awareness and resilience to ensure they are looking after themselves in this very difficult and challenging climate. That training is delivered in-house by our own prison staff who have worked in the organisation and understand it.

By its very nature, it is value for money-orientated. Are any elements of staff training and continuous professional development not being provided in-house? Is the Prison Service changing the way it is delivered in order to provide everything that is required?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Some elements of specialist training that are not necessarily part of continuous professional development might be provided in that way.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I refer, for example to investigation training, or training in relation to legal cases. Those would be very small elements.

I am out of time. My final question relates to mental health support services for prison officers and for Prison Service staff in general. Human nature determines that stresses in the workplace go beyond the workplace and extend to people who do not work within the Prison Service. Given the nature of the work, does Ms McCaffrey think it would be appropriate for the Prison Service to provide these services to family members on an ad hoc basis as a matter of course?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

If a staff member indicates that a family member needs counselling as a direct result of an issue that has arisen within our employment, a human resources director decides on a case-by-case basis whether to make the counselling service we have put in place for staff, which is a self-referral service, available to that person. That has happened directly.

We might refer to that later if possible.

Other members might pick it up.

I apologise to the Chair for going over time.

I thank the Deputy. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien has 15 minutes.

I will not take all of that time because I know other people want to come in before the break. I will ask a series of questions, some of which will be straightforward quickfire questions. I will start off with compensation and legal costs. Is there a reason that legal costs for claims by prisoners are far higher than the level of compensation awarded? It is the only category in which we are paying more in legal costs than we are in compensation itself. Is there a reason for that?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

While Ms McCaffrey is checking her papers, I would like to say that the vast bulk of these claims are managed by the State Claims Agency. This includes the legal costs that are incurred. The Department, or the Prison Service in this case, finds itself paying the relative amounts. This is common across Departments. Obviously, some cases are more complex than others. Legal fees mount up in those cases. I think there were compensation cases in relation to slopping out. They are historic at this stage. The expenses in those cases would have been incurred by the State Claims Agency. I would like to make a general point in this context. I come across this in other jobs. As Ms McCaffrey has said, an agency or Department can try to reduce the number of claims by managing the process better, but it has very little control over the legal costs that are incurred because decisions on such matters are made by the State Claims Agency in many cases. I think that might be borne in mind here.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The amount of money paid as legal fees with respect to prisoner cases came to €914,000 in 2017. Any payment on the slopping out cases that have been mentioned by the Secretary General is included in that figure. The State Claims Agency is managing slopping out claims on our behalf. To date, it has received 1,658 claims and High Court proceedings have been served in 983 of those claims. The payment that was made in those cases in 2017 may be inflating the figure.

Could we get a note from the State Claims Agency in relation to the number of Prison Service cases, the types of cases and the reason the figure for legal costs is twice as high as the figure for compensation payments?

We will write to the State Claims Agency to seek that information. Ms McCaffrey has mentioned that there are more than 1,600 cases. When representatives of the State Claims Agency were in here recently, they had a list of mass actions. I do not think they are called "class actions" in Ireland. Given that payments are already being made to people, has the principle been conceded in most of these cases?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

Are the cases being fought case by case?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is a case that is currently before the Supreme Court.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

A case that was heard in the High Court was appealed by the prisoner to the Supreme Court, and that determination is awaited. It is expected in perhaps April or May of this year. The legal costs will primarily be costs that have been borne by the State Claims Agency in terms of managing the defence of those claims. Of those 1,600 claims, a lot of those will be at litigation or pre-litigation stages.

Why has the Irish Prison Service paid out some?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The legal costs would be legal costs borne by-----

So the Irish Prison Service has not paid out any awards yet.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely, yes.

In relation to the slopping out, and that means no-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We have to await the Supreme Court's view.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

In fact, all of the payments in relation to those large number of cases only relate-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

To legal costs-----

-----legal costs to date.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

-----incurred by the State Claims Agency.

So no prisoner has got a penny yet out of that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

Maybe that explains why the compensation figure is so low-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

-----and the legal costs are so high.

We will ask the State Claims Agency for a breakdown.

I will ask a couple of quickfire questions. How many prisoners are in solitary confinement at the moment? Is there an average length of time that those prisoners spend in solitary confinement?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Prison Service has been making extensive efforts to reduce the number of prisoners.

I know it has been reduced from 72 down to nine at the moment.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We introduced, during 2017, a commitment to ensure that all of our prisoners have at least two hours access out of their cells. So the numbers who have access out of their cells of less than two hours are very small. The last time that we completed a census of our population was in October and that figure stood at around 35. Included in that figure would be prisoners who for medical reasons actually are not in a position to avail of out-of-cell time greater than two hours.

Is Ms McCaffrey talking about prisoners with mental health issues?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes, Deputy, and perhaps some prisoners who, for security reasons, are not in a position to avail of that. They are very low numbers.

There will be some prisoners who would choose not to exit their cells and stay in solitary confinement and then there will be a number of prisoners who, for medical reasons, are requested to stay. Do we have those figures? How many prisoners are in solitary confinement at their own request, for want of a better term? How many prisoners remain there on medical advice?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Just to clarify, we are talking about protection prisoners, so prisoners who do not want to participate in the full regime within a prison.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

What we are saying is that those prisoners are getting two hours out-of-cell time at a minimum.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In terms of the number of prisoners who fall within that category, there are 565 prisoners who are on protection, and the vast majority of those, Deputy, would be on protection because they would have requested protection themselves when they have come into the Prison Service.

And they get two hours out of their cells.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

They get a minimum of two hours out of cell.

How many prisoners would be in solitary confinement due to medical advice?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

These are just protection prisoners who have sought to not participate in the full regime. Of the figure that I gave, which is around 35, there would be prisoners within that category. Regrettably, I just do not have that breakdown available but within that category there will be people who just are not in a position to avail of their out-of-cell time for medical reasons.

Who would make that recommendation?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

For example, at any one time within our service we have between 20 and 30 prisoners on the waiting list for the Central Mental Hospital. Those prisoners would be suffering a severe and enduring mental illness and, potentially, be actively psychotic. It would be in those circumstances, Deputy, that that person would not be in a position to leave their cell.

So for those 20 to 30 people, without putting words in Ms McCaffrey's mouth, a prison setting is not ideal. They should be in the Central Mental Hospital.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Prison Service absolutely agrees with the Deputy. The caseload of the national forensic mental health service within the prison system is approximately 250. So there are 250 prisoners who are deemed to have a severe and enduring mental illness, and that would generally be either psychosis or schizophrenia. We agree that prison is not the best place to provide them with care because it is not a therapeutic environment. However, I do have to say that we get a fantastic inreach service from the national forensic mental health service.

My next question is on the difference in services available in a prison setting as opposed to a hospital setting. Is there any service that these individuals do not get in a prison setting that they may be able to avail of if they were in the Central Mental Hospital?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The big difference, in terms of medical care, is that in a designated centre, and obviously the CMH is a designated centre, there are differences around medication and the ability of the Central Mental Hospital to administer medication perhaps to patients who are not willing to take their medication, which can be an issue.

What about psychological services? What about access to psychiatrists or psychologists?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

As I mentioned, the national forensic mental health service provides us with an excellent inreach service. It is in all of our prisons bar three. So we do have a difficulty in terms of forensic mental health inreach services in Cork Prison, Limerick Prison and Castlerea. In 2016, the HSE did sanction the recruitment of forensic psychiatrists for those prisons but they have not been in a position to fill those posts so we do have a significant issue in those prisons. Where we do have an inreach service from the national forensic mental health service there is a team of doctors and nurses who come from the CMH who provide the appropriate care and oversight. I would like to mention our own staff, who do an amazing job in terms of assisting people who are suffering from mental illness in prison, the compassion and the humanity that is displayed by our discipline staff and our own internal nursing staff, in addition to the national forensic mental health service.

I do not doubt that for one moment. It would also be fair to say that the staff would not have the training that the staff in the Central Mental Hospital would have in dealing with these individuals.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We actually have provided mental health awareness training to all of our staff. It is an area that we identify as an issue or a skill that our staff require. All of our staff have gotten specific mental health awareness training. Obviously the nursing staff and our doctors would have quite a lot of background and training, and that is augmented by the specialist service that we get.

Would it be possible for Ms McCaffrey to forward a note to the committee on the number of prisoners who are in solitary confinement for mental health reasons, and a breakdown of the locations whether it is Cork, Dublin, Limerick or whatever?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

Could the length of time that the prisoners are in prison be broken down into less than three months, less than 12 months etc.?

Out of curiosity, does Ms McCaffrey know what is the longest length of time that a prisoner has been in solitary confinement for mental health reasons?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I do not, Deputy but I will certainly follow up on that.

Please pass all that information on to us.

How much time have I left?

Between two and three minutes.

I notice that the opiate programme has seen a decrease in the number of people who are accessing it but we have seen an increase in the number of people who are accessing addiction counselling. Is the opiate substitution programme available in all prisons?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is available in all prisons with the exception of our open centres. We do not have methadone maintenance in either Loughan House or Shelton Abbey. It available across the estate.

The reduction is actually related to a reduction within the community of those availing of that form of treatment. So, on any given day, we have approximately 530 prisoners on methadone stabilisation treatment within the Prison Service. We provided that service to almost 1,700 prisoners in 2017, which is 17% of the population who avail of methadone substitution treatment in Ireland. So a very significant contribution is made by the Irish Prison Service in providing drug treatment within the country.

So the opiate programme obviously will deal with heroin addiction. An increasing number of people have a serious addiction to prescription drugs when they enter prison. What provisions are put in place for those individuals? Obviously they would not avail of an opiate programme. If one has a serious prescription addiction the come-down or going cold turkey in a prison or any other setting can be quite dangerous for that individual. What procedures are put in place for individuals who have an addiction? How do we assess on intake what a person's addiction is? I ask Ms McCaffrey to give us some information on this matter. I will leave it at that, Chairman, and will move on.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Obviously, on committal, all of our prisoners are interviewed by both a nurse and a doctor, and we seek to engage with them around any addictions they may have be it in relation to illicit or prescription drugs or any alcohol addictions.

A range of services are in place to provide drug treatment programmes to prisoners within our care. The Deputy mentioned the addiction counselling service that we have got in place. That is run by Merchant's Quay Ireland.

The service is very successful and there is a significant uptake in respect of it. In addition, we have a nine-week drug treatment programme which operates in Mountjoy Prison. The programme forms part of a broader unit within the prison that has 50 beds available to assist people with drug treatment.

That is just in Mountjoy Prison but if someone with a serious addiction comes into Cork Prison, what is put in place for that individual?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

He or she would have access to the counselling service and to our medical team. We have a team of doctors and nurses working within the prison, looking after and actively assisting prisoners with their addictions.

People have to go cold turkey straight away, they cannot, for example, be weaned off their prescription drugs. If a person has a serious addiction to Xanax, D5s or D10s, there is no step-down facility in place to wean him or her off that once he or she comes into a prison setting,. It is a case of cold turkey and counselling.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I do not have the detail on that but I can confirm that the doctors and nurses within our system are very slow to prescribe some of the drugs to which the Deputy refers while people are in custody. That is because of the addictiveness of such substances. I apologise and I can come back to the Deputy on that specific issue-----

I appreciate that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

-----but we have a range of people and supports in place at prison level to assist people dealing with addiction. It is often the case that the period spent in custody is a good opportunity for the person to deal with the addiction issues with which he or she has come to prison.

How many places does the Irish Prison Service have in the Central Mental Hospital, CMH, in Dundrum?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We do not have places there.

How many people are there?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The way it works is that the CMH maintains a waiting list of prisoners who require admission to the-----

How many is that?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The national forensic mental health service's caseload is 250 prisoners and at any one time there are between 20 and 30 prisoners awaiting admission.. However, decisions on admission to the CMH are entirely a matter for the hospital itself. It may be the case that notwithstanding the fact that one is on a waiting list, he or she may never be admitted into the CMH. Those decisions are made depending on the acuity of need, not only within the Irish Prison Service, but right across the country in relation to admission to beds in the CMH. There is going to-----

Is the CMH just for the Irish Prison Service?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

So the Irish Prison Service only has a certain amount of space there.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The point is that the CMH has its own responsibilities. It is a hospital under the HSE and it would have-----

There is a little confusion in that regard on the part of the public. They are of the view that it is of the Irish Prison Service because some prisoners are sent there.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

There are prisoners among the people who go into the CMH but-----

How many prisoners would be in there at any given time?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I do not have a figure available on the breakdown of how many patients in the CMH are prisoners.

Is it ten, 20 or 50? The service must have an arrangement to have a certain amount of facilities available there.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We do not have a guarantee around any specific beds.

It is based on clinical need.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

People who are deemed not guilty by reason of insanity would be directly committed to the CMH and they would form a significant part of the population.

Ms McCaffrey said that there are people on the waiting list to go into the CMH who might never get there.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes, on 10 December we had 28-----

Which means they could be in solitary confinement for years upon years.

Is that because they are afraid to leave their cells or it is not safe for them to do so, even though cell doors can be opened for two hours?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

They are not well enough to leave their cells.

Fine. We are on the same wavelength there.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There will be an increase in the number of beds within the CMH. The CMH will be replaced by the facility in Portrane and there will be an increase in the number of beds from 97 to 130. We are hopeful and we are engaging with the HSE on Irish Prison Service access to some of those beds.

When might that be?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It will be mid-2020.

I welcome Ms McCaffrey and Mr. O'Driscoll. They say that a new broom sweeps clean even though I know that both of them have been involved in the service before and at the outset I pay tribute to the hardworking prison staff that we have in the service all over the country, be they administrative staff, officers or otherwise. I apologise in advance because people - particularly journalists - can be of the view that I am a bit abrupt in questioning. None of it is intentional; I only do so to get to the answers as quickly as we can in order to move forward. I may interrupt our guests as we are moving forward.

Our guests indicated that there are prison officers who had made a statement of claim and sworn an affidavit and that the matter is before the court. That is fine but, for the record, there is no protected disclosure before the court so are we safe enough in talking about a protected disclosure.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

To be clear, there are issues where there are protected disclosures with issues before the Circuit Court, the Labour Court and so on. That would be one particular case that this committee-----

Would they not be matters relating to personal injury?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

They go beyond that, they involve claims on penalisation and so on so-----

Is it okay quote from things that are in the public domain?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We are certainly not in a position to comment where issues are before a court-----

Will we do it case by case so and if our guests feel they cannot comment, they can say so?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----or the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. The Deputy can do whatever he wishes. If, however, he puts us into a position where we are constantly stated that we cannot talk about this or that, I know this will create a particular impression.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We have significant limitations on us where issues are before the courts-----

Who places those limitations?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

This is clear legal advice to the State at all times that where matters are before the-----

Who is that advice from?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

From the Attorney General that where matters are before the courts-----

The Attorney General would say not to say anything?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

He would say that.

That is why I am sticking to a protected disclosure.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Within that we may be able to discuss the issues if I could point the Deputy in that direction.

Good. In the context of a protected disclosure made before, an external review was carried out by a retired judge, William Earley. In it, he made distinctions between bullying and victimisation that I want to put on the record. In part 7.5 he states:

It is not essential to identify a specific, individual bully where there is a finding that the IPS is responsible for repeated acts of carelessness or inefficiency which have, or are reasonably likely to have, an adverse effect upon the morale, health and welfare of a worker. Such acts can amount to unfair treatment, bullying or harassment, and/or penalisation.

He also states:

There is no definition of "bullying" in the Act. Section 3 (1) does interpret "penalisation" to mean any act or omission that affects a worker to the worker's detriment, and in particular includes

(a) suspension, lay-off or dismissal,

(b) demotion or loss of opportunity for promotion,

(c) transfer of duties, change of location of place of work, reduction in wages or change in working hours,

(d) the imposition or administering of any discipline, reprimand or other penalty (including a financial penalty),

(e) unfair treatment,

(f) coercion, intimidation or harassment,

(g) discrimination, disadvantage or unfair treatment,

(h) injury, damage or loss, and

(i) threat of reprisal.

I ask the Department and the Irish Prison Service to briefly outline whether they accepted that report.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, what happened was-----

That is good, Mr. O'Driscoll said "Yes".

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

No, I should be allowed to finish the point-----

I have limited time and a lot to cover.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I realise that but I am sure the Chairman will be reasonable with the Deputy. The issues arising from that case have now moved on into other fora but the Deputy is right that Judge Earley's report was issued, he made a finding that the officer was treated unfairly in some respects as a result of his actions and I am aware that following that, the previous direct general apologised to the officer. The case has now widened significantly because the officer has raised other issues. There are a large number of issues in this case which I presume the committee is aware of and they are now in front of the WRC, the Labour Court and the Circuit Court. In the WRC and the Labour Court, matters have been suspended pending the outcome of the Circuit Court proceedings. That is as much as I can say.

Accepting that this happened and notwithstanding the broader nature of the case that is before the courts, what has the Department done about what Judge Earley was talking about?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

In the Prison Service and in the Department, new systems have been put in place regarding protected disclosures and, of course, throughout the public service we have put new systems in place regarding dignity at work. Deputy MacSharry is aware, I imagine, of the dignity at work policy, which has been throughout the public service since, I think, about 2015 or 2016. This does, by the way, contain a definition of "bullying".

Why are there still people coming forward to us?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

As I stated, there are a few thousand staff in the Irish Prison Service. A relatively small number of people have come forward and made quite significant claims and allegations. These various issues are being examined in different fora. One of the key things we have introduced regarding protected disclosure in particular is external independent examination, both at the point of assessment, that is to say, assessing whether it is a protected disclosure, and at the point of investigation, that is to say, where it has been deemed a protected disclosure and one investigates the issue.

May I stop Mr. O'Driscoll there?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes.

The Irish Prison Service has had two protected disclosure policies then. There was one in 2015 and it updated this in 2018. Mr. O'Driscoll said this earlier. Preceding this was the 2007 Act, statutory instrument for prison rules. Is that not correct? Does that still exist?

Mr. Don Culliton

Yes, the 2007 prison rules are still in force.

That is the 2007 Act, statutory instrument for prison rules.

Mr. Don Culliton

To be clear, the 2007 Act had a number of statutory instruments that flowed from it. To which specific statutory instrument is the Deputy referring?

Perhaps this will fill it in a bit. Under the 2007 Act, one must sign if one has a concern. However, in the Protected Disclosures Act and the Prison Service's policy, one can make an anonymous disclosure. What I want to know is-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

May I give some reassurance?

Just one second. Under the 2007 Act, one would be disciplined if one went to a Minister first as opposed to the governor.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

This is where an officer wishes to raise a concern-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

-----for the attention of the Minister.

Which policy supersedes the other?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The protected disclosures policy. May I just give the Deputy assurance? Staff willing to speak up and report wrongdoing is a sign of a healthy organisational culture, as-----

I agree, but when one has "you filthy rat" written on one's locker, something is wrong somewhere.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

As director general, I am absolutely committed to not only supporting and encouraging staff to speak up, but also ensuring that the culture in place at a prison level supports staff being able to come forward and raise issues without fear or favour. One of the things I will do this year is roll out-----

I appreciate that Ms McCaffrey is new to the job and I do not doubt her commitment to it. Her office is in Longford. There are 12 prisons. How can she be certain in terms of accountability as to what is going on inside the walls?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

One of the things-----

If I have five or six levels and I am an ordinary section 5A prison officer, I would probably never get to meet Ms McCaffrey.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That responsibility is vested in our governor and management team. This year we will roll out a code of ethics. That code of ethics sets out the minimum behavioural standards we expect from everyone in the organisation, from me to every governor, director and manager within our service and every member of staff. I will be holding our governors and our directors to account to ensure they behave in accordance with that code of ethics. The governor will then be charged with ensuring that all the staff within his or her prison are held to account regarding-----

If the governor of prison X found no contraband at all and in prison Y the governor found two tonnes of contraband - drugs, mobile phones, whatever - which governor would be held in a better light?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

If there is contraband within our system, we are determined to find it-----

Would it be fair to say that if contraband is not found in a prison, its governor must run a tight ship.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No. We have an operational support group that provides that service. It is not based within or attached to a particular prison. It is a national unit and its role is to work with the prison to ensure that contraband within the prison is detected. It operates our security screening at front of house. It is not attached to an individual prison so its job is not seen as a reflection on an individual prison or governor. It is not the staff of that prison; it is the staff of our operational support group, which is led by a governor-----

Does it not stand to reason, though, that if I am the governor of a prison in which 40 mobile phones are found on three landings or whatever, Ms McCaffrey will be lifting the phone, asking, "What are you doing at the gates? Are you not going through the normal procedures that you are not detecting this stuff coming in?" It would reflect badly, would it not?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No, I do not agree. There is a range of mechanisms-----

Is there not a culture of governors not wanting too much found and, as a result, junior prison officers or people lower down the trough feeling a pressure not to find too much stuff because-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That has not been my experience.

-----they will look bad.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That has not been my experience over the 12 years I have worked within the service. If there-----

Why is this small number of people coming forward then? Do all who make protected disclosures have an axe to grind? Are they trying to get at someone above them?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

If this contraband were in our prisons, I can absolutely guarantee that the governor would want it found. It could be a mobile phone that has been used to arrange drugs to be delivered to the prison or it might be a weapon. Every governor is keenly dedicated to finding contraband within the system. Again, people willing to speak up are a sign of a healthy culture, and I will be encouraging people to do so. In fact, I hope-----

I agree, and it is not really Ms McCaffrey's tenure I am talking about; it is the past. I have no doubt but that she will do all these things, but we are talking about the heretofore. I am not holding her responsible but I am asking her to look at this.

Would it be the case that governors of prisons would permit mobile phones for certain prisoners on a particular landing in order to feed intelligence about others?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not in a position to refer to any particular case but I can advise the Deputy that there is a legislative provision in place which states that a person cannot be in possession of a mobile phone unless he or she has the permission of a governor.

I agree with that. However, in the case of prisoner A, who might be a guest of the State for a considerable period and who wants to have as easy a run as possible, and prison authorities that could do with a bit of intelligence as to what is happening on the landing, can Ms McCaffrey state categorically that said prisoner would be allowed a mobile phone and could feed back to the authorities as to what is happening on the landing in order that the authorities would give him or her an easier run? Is that going on anywhere or is it absolutely not going on?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

At this point the Deputy may be going into issues that are before the High Court-----

No. If this happens to be coincidental with a case before the High Court-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I know.

-----that is certainly not my intention.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I accept that.

I assure Mr. O'Driscoll that the source we had here in private session did not bring that matter up with me.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

No. It is not that-----

Believe it or not, my own independent research actually threw up some of these matters.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I know that, and in fact, some matters have been widely canvassed in the newspapers also. Nevertheless, from our point of view, they are before the courts-----

Can Mr. O'Driscoll answer the question?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----and we are in some-----

Can Mr. O'Driscoll answer the question?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, of course. I think what-----

Clearly, there is a legislative provision to ban mobile phones.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes.

What I am asking is, is there a policy, even on an ad hoc or casual basis, to allow governors to allow prisoner A to maintain a mobile phone in order to inform on other prisoners in the interest of good intelligence and maintaining order on the landing?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Deputy is now asking about matters of security inside prisons but what he-----

It is a yes or a no.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

No. Actually-----

Mr. O'Driscoll's first answer was "Sorry, that is before the courts. I cannot tell you."

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

No.

He is now moving the goalposts and telling me I am getting into security issues.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

To be clear, there are certain matters before the courts, which I realise have been canvassed in the newspapers, and which we therefore cannot talk about. That is an issue. The director general has made very clear that there are legal provision which apply to everyone that phones cannot be in prison. My experience of prisons is very limited, only to the past few months, but anyone who enters a prison at any time knows that one of the first things that is done is one's mobile phone is taken-----

Honest to God, guys.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----and one is put through various detectors and so on.

Mr. O'Driscoll has too much experience from being Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. He is talking down the clock and not answering the question.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am not talking down the clock; I am saying directly to the Deputy's point that in fact an awful lot of effort is clearly invested in preventing mobile phones getting into prison. That is what I am saying.

Mr. O'Driscoll knows what I asked, so can we have an answer?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Deputy has been answered as fully as we can answer him.

No, I have not been answered. Mr. O'Driscoll has danced around the matter and told me it is against the law to have a mobile phone in prison. I asked a specific question. On an ad hoc or casual basis, in the interest of gathering intelligence and maintaining order within a prison, can a governor allow prisoner A to have a mobile phone in order to inform on others?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Look-----

It is a yes-or-no answer.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The provisions-----

The answer could be "I do not know", considering Mr. O'Driscoll is new to the Department, and then we could move to someone else.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I do not know about detailed operations inside prisons, but-----

That is fine. Can I ask the Secretary General then?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The director general.

The director general. I apologise.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not aware of any specific instance where a governor may have permitted that.

As I mentioned, the power to seize a mobile phone is vested in the governor.

The power is vested in the governor and, therefore, he or she has discretion.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is legislative discretion for the governor to allow a mobile phone.

Let us say a governor uses his or her discretion to gather intelligence and gives a mobile phone to lifer prisoner No. 56, for example, who gathers information that is fed in and used as intelligence. If a conscientious prison officer then inspects that prisoner's cell, finds the mobile phone and hands it over, what happens to that prison officer? He or she is in the governor's bad books, even though he or she acted in line with the legislation that Ms McCaffrey quoted and the power vested in the Prison Service, has done his or her job and has seized the contraband.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not aware of any specific incident. I hope the Deputy will appreciate that where issues are subject to court proceedings, or investigations by the Inspector of Prisons surround such incidents, the investigation needs to be allowed run its course.

In fairness to the Prison Service, this has nothing to do with the individual prison officer who appeared before the committee earlier. Believe it or not, the 11 of us are capable of doing a little research on our own or even of imagining a situation that might exist. My point is that anecdotal evidence suggests that scenarios such as I have described are happening. I ask the service to examine the matter and revert to the committee.

I will return to the issue later.

Is the governor allowed have a mobile phone?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No. None of the personnel from the Prison Service carries a mobile phone. I am not allowed have a mobile phone within a prison.

I welcome all the guests, in particular the Secretary General, Mr. O'Driscoll, and the director general of the service, Ms McCaffrey. They are both new appointments, to whom I wish the best of luck in their new roles.

I have a number of questions and I ask that we have a quick-fire engagement in order that we can cover as much as possible. When will the investigation into the unauthorised surveillance of prison officers be completed? I refer to allegations that there has been surveillance of cars and solicitors, and that equipment has been installed in rooms.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Inspector of Prisons has been asked to complete the investigation by the end of February or as soon thereafter as possible. She must have discretion to decide how much time she needs when she has begun the investigation.

I accept the Department will not have the information to hand, but will it revert to the committee to indicate whether there have been any costs for surveillance in any of the prisons or of any prison officers over the past five years? Will the Department inquire across the prison whether there have been any costs associated with any surveillance of prison officers, and revert to the committee?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, we can do that.

That would help with a number of matters and clarify where surveillance is going on because if it is, there must be associated costs.

The Protected Disclosures Bill was enacted in 2014. Why was it not introduced in the Prison Service until October 2015? Why did it need to be updated recently? The opening statements by Ms McCaffrey and Mr. O'Driscoll noted that a policy has been introduced to ensure employees who submit a protected disclosure are given periodic feedback and liaised with, which I welcome. Why was that policy introduced and how does it work?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will take part of the response before asking Ms McCaffrey to add to what I say. My notes indicate that the policy started in July 2015, but either way there was a slight delay after the 2014 policy was introduced. That reflects the fact that all public sector organisations took a while to catch up with the protected disclosure provisions.

The protected disclosure process in the Prison Service has changed, and I will ask Ms McCaffrey to elaborate on that. It has also changed within the Department. With the benefit of experience, and recognising, in particular, the need to be as independent as possible and to be seen to be so, and partly because of the unpredictable workload from protected disclosures - which has not been such a great deal but it has been unpredictable - we have decided to outsource all assessment and investigation, as I said earlier. The OGP has put in place a panel from which we can draw in that regard, which we are now using for all the cases.

Until July 2018, the director of the internal audit at the Department was the recipient for protected disclosures, not only in the Department but also in the Prison Service. Since then, the Prison Service has put in place its own recipient and, therefore, its own process. Some protected disclosures, even in the Prison Service, continue to be sent to the Department because some people address protected disclosures to Ministers and we must deal with that. When that happens, we generally refer them to the Prison Service unless there is some sort of conflict, for example, with senior officers.

Does the liaison which the Department conducts include the Prison Service, the Department and any other body?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, I think the Deputy is referring to Transparency International.

In essence, the Department keeps in intermittent contact with anyone who has been acknowledged as a discloser.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, and members of staff who seek advice about protected disclosures have access to that advice.

Mr. O'Driscoll has answered my questions and, for time reasons, I will move on. I am interested in the change of internal auditor which was made. I accept that the issue of protected disclosures is changing and evolving. We, including those of us in the committee, are learning collectively.

I will not beat around the bush. We all know which body we are talking about, and Deputy MacSharry made reference to it. The panel or company that is purported to be investigating the disclosure is an outside firm, which I will not name. I presume that its terms of reference were written by the person who was then the head of internal audit, but he was one of the recipients of the disclosure when it was made. I do not suggest anything against that person, but this needs to be examined because, as has been seen in other cases, terms of reference being partly or in any way written by somebody or some section that was party to the trail is not good practice. Will the Department consider that and reflect on the panel, the terms of reference and whether the matter needs to be re-examined? It would be good to examine because of the trail. I will leave the matter without seeking commentary from the witnesses but I ask them to reflect on it.

I also ask them to reflect on the issue of mediation, specifically in this case because it has been requested a number of times. There will be different opinions on it but, again, it might be that somebody needs to make contact. If that happens, perhaps there will be changes in some of the way in which the subject traverses the media and so on.

I understand that all the external firms that the Prison Service and the Department use are selected from a panel established by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I asked about costs over the past five years.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

To clarify, this is now through a panel in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since it was put in place.

When was the panel put in place?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Recently. In the case of the external firm to which the Deputy is referring, we selected it prior to that panel being replaced.

Will Mr. O'Driscoll write to the committee showing the tender, the documentation and what other companies were asked? This firm keeps on popping up. I just want to see how it was picked, how it was tendered for and what other firms tendered? By the way, it would be easier if the Department would hold its hands up if it was not tendered for.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We do not have to hold our hands up.

Sometimes it is better to do that because if it is not done, then it means sending in a parliamentary question for the information.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We will send the Deputy the full details.

Regarding the impact on those submitting protected disclosures, some of them have to get counselling. Some of their family members, because of the way in which they were treated, also have to get counselling. Will Mr. O'Driscoll outline the costs for such counselling over five years by prison and other areas of the Prison Service? This is a cost to the Exchequer.

Is there a loss to the Exchequer by actions or behaviour being tolerated in prisons? For example, are there cases in the Prison Service where catering has been provided for events outside of prisons? Is that normal? Who pays for this? Is there a loss to the taxpayer? If Mr. O'Driscoll does not know the answer, will he write back to the committee? Will he send an email to every prison governor asking if this has ever happened in their prisons, if so, why, and what are the costs?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I will have to come back with specifics. There are occasions. For example, if we were having an annual report launch, to keep our costs down, we would ask Mountjoy Prison to cater-----

That is not the issue. I am talking about 21st and 80th birthday parties. Being honest, we need to say it is happening and deal with it as a loss to the Exchequer or else debunk the myths. It is either happening or it is not.

Will the Deputy be more specific about what catering he is referring to? Is it in the prison?

I am referring to catering in the prison being used for outside events. For example, equipment and foodstuffs belonging to a prison being taken outside. The prison’s rice is eaten outside the prison.

To be helpful, we are referring to events being held in X rugby club or Y tennis club.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Are the Deputies referring to events not related to the Prison Service?

Sometimes, it might be an inter-prison event such as a sporting occasion. However, we are referring specifically to communion, 21st and 50th birthday and other celebrations. What about the food safety aspect of this? If it is off-site and there is a case of food poisoning, will the rugby club or the Prison Service be sued?

Mr. O’Driscoll will take on board what I said about the issue of the internal audit and mediation. Several committee members met this individual. What I have said in this regard should be taken on board in a generous way.

An apology was given by Mr. O’Driscoll’s predecessor. I have read the judge’s findings on the matter several times. However, it went to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, where it was fought tooth and nail. That is behaviour from a different time. Most of us believe that should never have happened. The reason and the way in which it was fought, particularly considering the judge’s opinion, was from a different time. There was an award made in this case which was never paid. I urge the Department and the new Secretary General to reflect on this. This case should never have occurred. It now has the opportunity to deal with this. It was unacceptable that after the findings of the judge and the apology from the service, it was then fought all over again at the WRC. I accept Mr. O’Driscoll’s point but I find it unusual for such behaviour to happen.

How many protected disclosures have there been? Without giving away confidential information, will Mr. O’Driscoll outline if there is a pattern as regards the location of the individuals making the protected disclosures?

Mr. Aidan O’Driscoll

The Deputy has gone a little too close to the bone on an individual case for me to go with him on it. However, I agree completely with the usefulness of mediation in many cases. Sometimes, it happens that mediation is offered but there is a discussion about the precise scope of the mediation. That can happen in certain cases. I want to make it clear that we have a preference for mediation. The dignity at work policy in the Civil Service specifically highlights the desirability of mediation or of informal processes rather than formal investigations. I agree with the Deputy on mediation but I am not going to talk about the individual case in question.

On the terms of reference issue, I do not know where they arise. The external firm is asked to assess-----

It is at a stalemate. Something must unlock it.

Mr. Aidan O’Driscoll

Yes, but I am limited in what I can say about the individual case. The Deputy will agree mediation is the way forward in many of these cases.

Between 2015 and 2018, when the Department’s internal audit unit was handling Prison Service cases, there were 25 cases. Of these, 19 were dealt with under our old system and six under the new system. I can give the Deputy some detail on that if he wants.

Mr. O’Driscoll can send it on to the committee.

Mr. Aidan O’Driscoll

We are concentrating on the Prison Service but there are also cases within the Department from time to time.

They then have to be assessed and at least nine were deemed not to be protected disclosures on assessment, so the numbers fall quite considerably there. Four were investigated and 12 investigations are ongoing.

Can I go back to the issue of compensation claims? I have some information I received as a consequence of a parliamentary question. The State Claims Agency handles the claims. Does the agency work with the Prison Service to mitigate and reduce claims? Does the agency play an active role?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

Does the agency provide the Prison Service with a report? Are there recommendations and does the Prison Service generally take the recommendations on board?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We work very closely with the State Claims Agency. We have access to its national incident management system which allows us to generate reports at an organisational level, but also on a prison-by-prison level. We have a system in place with a compliance executive. We have health and safety co-ordinators in all our prisons and those reports are shared so that we can actively ensure we are learning lessons from those claims.

There seems to be a number of categories, or that was the response I received to my parliamentary question. For example, something that jumps out to me addresses why claims occurred. The numbers I have were from 2016 and 2017. One of the categories was self-injurious behaviour where somebody has inflicted an injury on themselves. Why would that be a compensatable category if somebody was injuring themselves?

Bacteria is another of the categories. Did that relate to something like TB? There is then a category, from 2016, of wrongful arrest or unlawful detention in the amount of €28,000. The Prison Service does not arrest people.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We would fall into the category of unlawful detention. A significant number of claims are taken by prisoners about their detention and, at any one time, 160-odd claims may be under way by prisoners against the State for unlawful detention. The Deputy is correct to say it would not fall into the category of arrest. It is unlawful detention.

Regrettably, I do not have breakdown of individual cases but perhaps I can talk in a general sense. I mentioned we have a compliance executive team and one of the areas around which we are very focused is the environment and particularly risks that arise within the environment. The Deputy mentioned TB and there is also legionella and other bacterial infections. We have a huge amount of work and focus in place in ensuring that, from a health and safety management perspective, we have systems in place to ensure we mitigate against those issues arising in the prison.

Are those the reasons there was compensation for bacteria?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Why was compensation paid in cases of prisoners harming themselves?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not aware. I will have a look at that particular case, if the Deputy would not mind.

It jumped out at me. In each year, it comes to around €50,000 and it is a distinct category.

Can Ms McCaffrey supply the number of cases where, with or without prejudice, compensation payments were made in cases relating to protected disclosure and non-disclosure agreements? Were payments made, including pension time, for any of those claims?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Deputy is again referring to cases that are managed on our behalf by the State Claims Agency.

We need that information from the agency.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We can certainly follow up on that.

The Chair might include that in the list of data we are seeking from the agency. Was there a top-up or buy-out of pensions?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

At the time of the Deputy's question, the agency confirmed to us that was not the case and there were no such cases.

I asked a number of parliamentary questions going back some time. A complaint was upheld against a member of the Prison Service under the dignity at work policy and disciplinary proceedings followed. Can Ms McCaffrey indicate the outcome of something like that? I understand there are another three complaints from staff members under the dignity at work policy. Are they ongoing or concluded?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In 2016, we received a total of four complaints under that policy, three of which were resolved through mediation, one of which was investigated and the allegation upheld, and the appropriate disciplinary action ensued as a result of that finding.

What kind of disciplinary action?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In terms of how our disciplinary system works-----

What are the ranges of disciplinary actions?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

-----the imposition of disciplinary sanctions against prison officers is a power vested in our prison governors. The governor has various sanctions at his or her disposal, including a loss of increment. In 2017, nine cases were received under that policy, six of which were resolved through mediation. We take a proactive approach in dealing with cases through mediation. We established our own internal mediation network to coincide with the introduction of the 2015 policy and we are trying to encourage staff, at the earliest stage, to engage to address any workplace issues because the earlier the engagement, the better the outcome for everybody. Six of the nine 2017 cases were resolved through mediation. One case is still ongoing and one was concluded after investigation. The allegation was upheld and, again, the appropriate disciplinary action ensued in that case.

We have to stop because a vótáil has been called in the Chamber. I understand there is a large number of votes so we could be there until 2.30 p.m. I think we have to suspend until 3 p.m. as the voting will go on for an hour and a half because there is so much backed up after Christmas. Will we say 2.30 p.m.? We will come back at 2.30 p.m. but, if the votes are still running, we might be another few minutes. We will provisionally resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 12.57 p.m. and resumed at 2.37 p.m.

The numbers for complaints in 2017 have been given to the committee. If the State Claims Agency settles on an amount for a claim made by, say, a prisoner, does that appear as part of the Vote for the Prison Service?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

All settlements made by the State Claims Agency are reimbursed by the Irish Prison Service and appear as part of its Vote.

As a prison is a dangerous environment, it is inevitable there will be some occupational injuries in the Prison Service. I note there are no injury warrants. Why does the Prison Service not handle injuries in such a manner?

Mr. Don Culliton

Injury warrants are a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Will Mr. Don Culliton explain to the public who are watching what an injury warrant is?

Mr. Don Culliton

An injury warrant is a provision under the superannuation Act that allows for certain payments to be made for people injured in their course of duty and who, as a result, are not entitled to a full pension.

Why would one not be entitled to a full pension if one were injured on the job?

Mr. Don Culliton

For example, if I had 20 years service and I was injured on the job, the maximum additional pension payment that I can get if I am being retired from the service is six and two third years. That would only bring me up to 26 and two third years of service and I would still be short from a pensionable point of view.

They are the same superannuation rules that civil servants generally operate under. The injury warrant scheme recognises that particular issue and allows for additional payments to be made. However, injury warrants are a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the application from the officer concerned must go to that Department. I have worked in other areas of the public service and, generally speaking, injury warrants are not common. In my best recollection over the last ten years, little or no injury warrants have been granted.

People can be offered modified duties but only if there is a position open. If not, the person continues on sick leave. Is that the case and would there be many people in that category?

Mr. Don Culliton

Yes, that can be the case. Under the Employment Equality Acts, there are exemptions for employees of the Prison Service. Given the nature of the service that we provide and the dangerous environment in which prison officers work, we must have people who are fully capable of undertaking the duties of a prison officer, including control and restraint and dealing with difficult prisoners. We have a limited number of spaces available to us where we can accommodate staff but the number is small. They are generally reserved for people who are-----

Would there be many people at the moment who are not able to return to work in any capacity because there is not an available modified duty position?

Mr. Don Culliton

The numbers would be small. If we have staff who fall into that category then, in the normal course of events, the chief medical officer would retire them from the service.

They would not be allowed to stay on long-term leave.

Mr. Don Culliton

No.

I ask the Deputy to allow me to come in on this point. The chief medical officer, CMO, would retire the officer from the service on the basis that he or she is not fit to-----

Mr. Don Culliton

On the basis that the officer is permanently not fit to work in the service.

Yes, but what if the chief medical officer believes that the officer is capable of doing modified work but the service has no space for him or her?

Mr. Don Culliton

This relates to a small number of people but I do not have the exact number today because it changes on an ongoing basis. In the normal course of events, we can accommodate people but the accommodations policy is one which is designed to allow people to regain full health. It is a temporary accommodations policy. If someone is permanently or long term in a position where he or she is unable to undertake the full range of duties that attach to the role of prison officer, then he or she would remain on sick leave.

I apologise to Deputy Catherine Murphy but I wish to tease that out further. Mr. Culliton said previously that the CMO might retire an officer on health grounds. How long must an officer be on long-term sick leave before he or she is retired from the service?

Mr. Don Culliton

There is no hard and fast rule on that. It depends on the particular circumstances of the individual case. We start looking at this in a very detailed way once an officer is out on sick leave for in excess of 12 months. That said, we have had people on sick leave for longer than a year who have not retired then on the grounds of ill health but who have retired on those grounds subsequently after three or four years. It depends but it is assessed on a case by case basis.

Let us say the ill health is a direct result of injuries suffered on the job. I am not referring to an officer retiring on the basis of general ill health but on the basis of injuries suffered by that officer in the course of his or her work which renders the officer incapable of performing the full duties of the role. Can the CMO retire such an officer on ill health grounds or is there a different mechanism when the ill health is the result of injuries sustained on the job? If a prison officer is assaulted on the job and he or she can never work again, it is not right that he or she should be retired on the grounds of ill health by the CMO. The Prison Service must make it clear that such an officer is retiring because he or she is not capable of doing the job having been injured on duty. The CMO will probably not take that second step so that the person who is injured while on duty is just being retired on the grounds of ill health but that ill health is a direct result of the performance of his or her daily duties within the Prison Service. Some people feel that they are being trapped in that space.

Mr. Don Culliton

There are a number of mechanisms available to people who retire because of ill health. The first is retirement on the grounds of ill health under the superannuation arrangements. The Chairman is correct that the same superannuation rules apply regardless of whether the retirement is a result of injuries sustained on duty or a general medical condition. However, persons who are injured in the course of their duties have access to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, CICT, and can pursue a case through the tribunal if they feel that they are at a loss because of an injury sustained on duty. There is a second avenue available to them.

Yes, but that is not available to them through the Prison Service. The CICT is an independent body.

Mr. Don Culliton

Yes, that is correct.

That is unsatisfactory from the point of view of a prison officer who has been injured in the course of his or her work. The Prison Service grants the officer superannuation benefits because he or she is retiring on the grounds of ill health but does not acknowledge that the reason the officer is in that position is that he or she was assaulted on the job. The Prison Service is essentially telling the officer to take a case to the CICT and take his or her chances there. That is not a good way to treat employees.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Could I just say, on a exceptional basis and given the nature of the injuries that our staff can sustain while on duty, we went to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2015 and were given permission to introduce a special scheme which only applies to prison officers. It is a serious physical assault scheme and relates to people who are seriously injured on duty. Ordinarily if staff are injured on duty, they are entitled to six months' sick leave on full pay and six months on half pay but under this scheme, they are entitled to 12 months' sick leave on full pay. This is now forming part of a review of occupational injury and disease and their treatment within the Civil Service. That review is being undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We are playing a very full and active part in that review because we recognise the specific issues facing some of our staff.

That does not address the point I am making. It is fine that an additional six months of sick leave on full pay is available to prison officers but I am talking about people who are long past that point. The extra concessionary months under the rules of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are fine but I am talking about people who are facing the prospect of leaving the service. How does a person prove that his or her injuries were sustained on the job? The CMO might say to a prison officer that there is no way of knowing whether he or she had a back problem anyway. Do the witnesses understand the point I am making? It is all well and good to say that this is being looked at by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to ask how long is a piece of string and to ask if it will ever happen, who will be covered going forward and so on. I am talking about current serving officers who have been injured at work and cannot continue to work. They do not want to be retired on the grounds of ill health without some recognition that their ill health is a direct result of injuries sustained at work. The Prison Service is their employer and it has a duty to deal with them rather than telling them to take their chances with the CICT.

Mr. Don Culliton

We are constrained by the superannuation rules that apply to the Civil Service generally and to the Prison Service in particular. I understand the point the Chairman is making but we can only apply the superannuation arrangements that are in place at this point in time. They provide that someone who is injured in the course of his or her duties can have access to enhanced pension arrangements, unlike someone who retires because of other medical conditions. They are the arrangements with which we must comply and we have no authority or derogation from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to introduce any extended arrangements, apart from the examination that was conducted some years ago about which the director general spoke, following which we received authority from the Department to introduce an enhanced sick leave arrangement.

Yes, but that does not deal with the issue of retirement.

Mr. Don Culliton

No, it does not.

There are people in an unfair situation at the moment. They were injured in the course of employment by the Prison Service but they are not being adequately compensated by the service. They are being forced to retire before they are eligible for their full pension and are being told to take their chances somewhere else and that they might get something from the CICT.

Mr. Don Culliton

We are applying the rules as they have been given to us. If the CMO tells us somebody has been injured in their duties and can no longer-----

Now Mr. Culliton is coming to the crux of it. If somebody's back is broken, or somebody got stabbed in the neck or some other injury, how can the chief medical officer say a couple of years on that an injury is specifically linked to an assault by the three prisoners who beat somebody up on such and such a day? Is the chief medical officer willing to sign off on a person retiring due to an assault on the job?

Mr. Don Culliton

We retire a number of people who have been injured in their course of their employment with the Irish Prison Service on foot of the chief medical officer signing off to say that that had occurred.

What are they saying?

Mr. Don Culliton

They are saying that the person was injured in the course of their duties.

Right, but they cannot get any enhanced payment.

Mr. Don Culliton

It is not for the chief medical officer to decide if they get any enhanced arrangement. When that advice comes back to us we must apply the superannuation rules as they are set out.

Is invoking the superannuation situation immaterial then from a superannuation point of view? Is it irrelevant financially whether a person was injured in the course of their work or if he or she got cancer and was no longer able to work?

Mr. Don Culliton

I am not sure I would describe it as irrelevant.

No, what I mean is that it is not relevant to the amount of payment made.

Mr. Don Culliton

That does not come into the equation in the context of the application of the rules.

So that is not relevant then. I will come back to the point. I am sorry for interrupting Deputy Catherine Murphy.

The Prison Service is not like other Departments as there is not the same risk in other Departments. It appears that the treatment does not recognise the risk involved. That is part of the reason I was asking about injury warrants because that has a bearing on the legitimate expectations somebody has if he or she starts out in the Prison Service that he or she will continue to work there and then end up being retired because he or she is injured at work. There is an inherent unfairness. I accept that the 2015 scheme does something but it does not cover the pension aspect.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We will be engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the context of the review on all of those points.

When one is counting the number of prison officers, does one count the full complement? Does one count the number that are out or the number that are on modified working arrangements? How are the numbers calculated?

Mr. Don Culliton

When we submit returns to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on prison officer numbers, we count all individuals in employment, including people who are on sick leave, maternity leave or other leave. We outline whatever arrangements they are on that come within the scope of the employment. All those people are counted in our numbers.

Are the Prison Service's numbers likely to differ from those of other Departments because of the nature of the work?

Mr. Don Culliton

I share the Deputy's view that the prison environment is not like any other environment across the public service or Civil Service. We have more officers who, on occasion, get injured in the course of their duties.

Right. I will move on to something else and ask about the prison shops and restaurants. What prompted the Prison Service to remind the voluntary mess committees of the governance responsibilities? Are they captured on internal audit? Do they have a separate tax number? Is there an external auditor? Those are the type of questions that suggest themselves to me.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am sorry for the delay in replying. There were two elements to the question. There is the prison shop and then there are our staff canteen arrangements. Procurement for the prison shop is done by the Irish Prison Service and the funds are managed by it. We reinvest the profits from the tuck shop into a prisoner assist programme fund which we then use to make hardship payments to prisoners. We also use some of that profit to fund the community return scheme which allows prisoners to go out early onto community service.

The mess committees are separate and they manage their moneys themselves. They are aware of the principles of good governance, notwithstanding the fact that they are not part of our voted expenditure. As part of our business process review, when we were looking at cash management and handling within the Prison Service, we thought it was an opportunity for us to engage with those committees to ensure that they did have the appropriate financial arrangements in place, but those arrangements are a matter for the mess committees themselves as opposed to the Prison Service.

They have a separate tax number and they are subject to internal audit.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No, that is correct.

Who audits them? Do they have an external auditor? I presume they do.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Could I ask my director of finance?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

They are operated on a quasi club basis in that each voluntary mess committee operates separately. As the director general referred to there, we have been engaging with them in terms of reminding them of their own governance obligations. Off the top of my head, I cannot honestly say whether they have a tax number. It is very much up to the individual mess committee. Each kitchen is staffed by prisoners. It is part of the work training initiatives within the prison that they are engaged in the operation of the kitchens. We have also been in correspondence with Revenue to get an opinion on the exact situation concerning Revenue obligations in that regard. For instance, there is no Revenue obligation to register for the Department of Defence mess committees. We have been trying to engage to get a formal decision in relation to that. We are awaiting outstanding correspondence from Revenue at the moment.

For example, who buys the food? Does the Prison Service buy the food? Do the committees buy it themselves? Is a profit made? How many mess committees are there?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The food is purchased directly and paid for by the mess committees. There is a mess committee in every prison. Given the environment in which our staff work and the long shifts, it is really important from a staff management and well-being perspective that we have those arrangements in place for staff.

I do not dispute that. What I am trying to explore is how it is managed; whether there are Revenue obligations if there is an income from it; and if there is a crossover with the Prison Service.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The committees all maintain their own bank accounts and the funds are completely separate from the Irish Prison Service.

Part of the reason I am asking this is that we had a colourful inquiry about the Garda College in Templemore. I do not think we take any of these things as miscellaneous add-ons. We want to be sure that all funds are properly managed and that good governance is adhered to. The mess committees may not be companies.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

They are not-for-profit companies.

Do they operate under those rules?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

To my knowledge, they would not be companies. They would be operated like a club or a not-for-profit charity. Some of them may have made their own arrangements with the local Revenue office governing their district, for instance.

For example, a company that is limited by guarantee is a charity and will come under the remit of the Charities Regulator and there are rules and regulations in that regard. Can we be sure the mess committees are adhering to that system? Could we get some feedback on the mess committees in all of the prisons.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Yes.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We can come back with a note. Each committee gets its own independent financial and accounting advice. However, given the Deputy's request we can come back with a note on the operation of mess committees.

Okay. My final question relates to the State Claims Agency and the mitigation of claims. Could the witnesses give any indication of recommendations that have been taken on board as a consequence of the function of the State Claims Agency mitigating against claims?

Are there high level initiatives that the service would have taken that would have been different by prison?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I will select one area - slips, trips and falls - that gives rise to a significant number of claims. Approximately 20% of incidents recorded on the SCA's database related to slips, trips and falls between 2013 and 2016. That was 188 per annum. Using the data we got from the agency, we were able to target individual prisons and ensure appropriate action was taken at prison level. We have now reduced that figure from an average of 188 claims per year to 129 per annum between 2017 and 2018. That is a 31% reduction in that area of claims because of engagement, co-operation and the lessons we are learning from the agency.

The 2016 figure was €159,000 and it was €36,000 in 2017. It reduced even further between 2017 and 2018. The big area is probably violence, harassment and aggression under the exposure to behavioural hazards. Were there recommendations in that area?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The SCA undertook specific work in that area and made 50 recommendations on how we could work together to make the workplace safer for staff. Over 30 of those recommendations have been implemented to date and we have seen a reduction in the number of assaults on staff. One assault on a member of staff is too many so there is no level of complacency within the organisation regarding assaults. In 2017, there were 104 assaults on staff. It is an area we target for continuous improvement. Some of the security equipment we bought earlier, particularly the handcuffs, was one of the recommendations made in the SCA report, which was that we would standardise our equipment across the service and ensure that everybody was properly trained. Again, we are actively working with the SCA with a view to minimising the amount of claims and the number of incidents in our prisons.

I thank the witness.

I welcome the witnesses. I congratulate Mr. O'Driscoll and Ms McCaffrey on their new posts and wish them the best. Guím gach rath orthu ina róil nua.

I have read the annual report. The scope of this is a budget of more than €300 million. The report states that the annual cost of keeping an available staffed prison space for a prisoner is €68,635, which is sizeable but a slight decrease on the previous year. At any given time there are 3,100 prisoners.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Today we have just over 3,900 prisoners in custody.

Is 3,900 a little higher than normal?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have seen an increase in the number of prisoners in our custody over the past 12 months. To give a comparison between this time last year and today, we have approximately 260 more prisoners in custody.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is an increase across a number of areas. There is an increase in the number of remand prisoners and we are seeing an increase in the number of female offenders. There is also an increase in the time people are spending on remand. That can very much relate to the nature of the offence for which they are awaiting trial.

There are very few female prisoners. The number is just over 100.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is just over 140 in custody.

That varies a little but it is a tiny percentage of the overall figure.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is.

The staffing numbers appear to be very high, but I am no expert. I have long been a supporter of the public service and this is an essential service, but the number of staff is up at 3,186.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

At the end of December 2018, we had 3,092 serving staff.

Is that the full complement of staff the service needs?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is not. About 30 years ago there was a massive increase in the number of prison officers in the State and over the past number of years there have been significant numbers of retirements in the service as people reach their 30 years of service. We have been undergoing an extensive recruitment campaign over the past number of years. Last year, we recruited 182 officers and in the previous year there were 85 new officers in the service.

This year it will be 200.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

This year we hope to take in 200 staff to replace the staff who are retiring, but we are not-----

What is the full complement the service requires?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We require approximately 3,300 to have all our posts filled.

The service has 3,092.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

How many staff are out for maternity leave, sick leave or for other reasons?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am sorry but I do not have those figures available. We will certainly follow up on them.

Perhaps Ms McCaffrey will refer back to us with them.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

I see from the accounts that former civil servants and former prison officers are re-employed. Is there a reason for that? It is note 5.4 in the accounts - other remuneration arrangements - and refers to 22 retired civil servants.

Mr. Don Culliton

I will reply to that question if I can.

Yes, on that note.

Mr. Don Culliton

With regard to the 22 officers we re-employed, we only recommenced recruitment in mid-2017. Due to the staff deficits we sought expressions of interest from prison officers who had retired to try to get additional staffing resources back into the Prison Service on a short-term basis. We were successful in recruiting 22 people. They gave service for 12 months. However, as recruitment through 2018 has accelerated, those contracts have not been extended. They were to assist us with the staffing deficits we had.

It was 22 retired civil servants and 12 retired members of An Garda Síochána. Can Ms McCaffrey clarify note 5.4 on page 17 of the appropriation accounts?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I apologise for the confusion on our side. There are two areas where we may utilise retired civil servants. One might be in respect of interview boards. We run a number of interview boards with the Public Appointments Service and we run our own interview boards. We also have a panel of category A investigators. Many of those might be retired gardaí because of the nature of the investigative skills they bring. That is for investigating serious complaints made by prisoners against our staff.

The gardaí have retired and they are brought back in this capacity of special investigators.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have a panel of 31 category A investigators in place at present. They generally investigate allegations of assault on prisoners by members of our staff. On the cost of payments, we pay €150 per day in that investigative process.

Is that specifically with regard to assaults?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

How did the process come about whereby the service just picked gardaí?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In the process we openly advertised, interviewed and selected people based on their skills. They are not solely gardaí. We have a group of 31 people and they might have previous investigative roles, perhaps as members of the Mental Health Commission. There is a variety of people but some of them would be retired gardaí.

IT and computers are an issue I follow up on regularly at the committee. There is a significant allocation for that on page 13, under office equipment and external IT services. The estimate was over €4 million and the outturn was over €7 million. The Prison Service gives the reason for that as additional storage space. Does Ms McCaffrey see note 5? Can she clarify it?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have been rolling out and enhancing the closed circuit television, CCTV, scheme we operate across our prisons and moving from the quite outdated systems we have in place to high-definition CCTV systems arising from the changes in technology. The physical IT storage space to store that footage has increased and we have had to invest significant moneys to purchase additional storage to ensure all the CCTV footage that is captured and saved as part of an incident is then available for any criminal or Inspector of Prisons investigation.

Is it stored on private property or in the prison?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We operate our own IT system with more than 30 staff made up of a blend of civil servants and contractors. They are based in Longford and all of our IT systems are operated-----

Made up of civil servants?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is a blend of civil servants and ICT contractors.

Are they from private companies?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

They are contracted from various companies by our service and work as part of our team.

Can Ms McCaffrey explain the difference between €4.4 million and €7 million? The estimate was €4.4 million. It is a significant difference.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I will ask our director of finance to come in on that.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

That is the original estimate of €4.5 million. We do a little bit of transferring between various elements of our capital envelope, for instance. As such, we reallocated some capital moneys to ICT due to the demands and requirements of ICT. We diverted that from buildings and equipment in terms of the overall heading and remained within our capital envelope in total. Some of the explanation relates to that in addition to what the DG has outlined regarding the extra demands continuously faced by our ICT section in respect of new technologies.

On office equipment and external IT, was a business case set out? If so, is it available and to whom would it have been given?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

ICT expenditure is governed by our own internal ICT governance group and there would be business cases.

Was there a business case for this expenditure?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is a very robust system in place for the governance of ICT expenditure.

Where does that business case go? We have often had discussion here - every week, practically - on business cases.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have an ICT governance group, which is chaired by the director general and it will now be chaired by me. A number of groups sit under that, one of which is a business case planning group. The business cases which come to the governance group are therefore fully costed and specified. The decisions are then made by the governance group having regard to the moneys available and the priorities within the service at the time.

Ultimately, it rests with Ms McCaffrey as the director general.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Remaining on the accounts, I want to ask some other questions. Consultancy services and value for money also took a significant jump from the estimated provision for 2017 which was €100,000. I refer to page 13.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Yes, but nothing was spent against that.

Nothing was spent under that heading.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Well, there is a small amount there. There was no value for money expenditure during that year.

Okay. I have a practical question on Thornton Hall. We are not going back into the debacle of the cost of it but I understand there is a large weekly security cost. Is that in these accounts or is it somewhere else?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

The only security cost connected to Thornton Hall relates to CCTV cameras and their maintenance. There are other costs of maintenance and utilities.

Can Mr. Caldbeck explain that? This site is 163 acres.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

It is the 163 acres at Thornton Hall. Part of the site is used as a community horticulture facility for prisoners and there are costs associated with that. However, there is also some other occasional expense which is essential to keep the site secure.

I understand that but when we see a figure in the press of €1,000 per week, is that accurate? It is the only place I saw it. I did not see it when I went through it here.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

No, not to my knowledge.

What is the accurate figure for security for the 163 acres that has remained empty for so long?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

I will have to come back to the Deputy on that. To my knowledge, the only security cost relates to the CCTV cameras that are on the site to provide distant monitoring of it.

I understand that. I am asking a specific question on the 163 acres. Does the money come out of this account?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Yes.

Can Mr. Caldbeck come back and show me where it is in the account, how much is involved and how that breaks down?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Yes.

Is there an income from Thornton Hall?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

No. I am not overly familiar with it but there is provision for vegetable growing to be undertaken by prisoners from various prisons but there is no income.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is no income.

My colleague asked something about the various accounts, including the restaurant or mess accounts. I understand a review is taking place. When I look at the accounts, I see a note that a review is under way. Is that correct? I refer to internal financial control issues on page 5 of the appropriation accounts. It states that arising from recent audit reports, a review of administrative, financial and operational control is currently under way.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That is the business process review to which I referred earlier.

I understand that. I heard that. Who is doing it, when did it start, when will it be completed and what is the cost of it?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have put a team in place to undertake the review, which commenced in 2017.

What date in 2017? Who started it?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I do not have the specific date.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The team was put in place between us and the Department of Justice and Equality and, as I mentioned earlier, it is there to ensure we get the very best compliance.

I heard all that. At this point, I am asking factual questions. When did it start, who is doing it and when will it be completed? At this point, it is an internal team comprising Prison Service staff and departmental officials. That is fine.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have three staff assigned to it full time. They are all external to the service and they are augmented by staff internally within the Prison Service who are working across the business areas. We have a lead review who is appointed externally and two former governors working to assist the review and bringing technical expertise to a number of areas.

How many people are on this team?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Three.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Does that include the Department?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Two of those resources are paid for by the Department and one resource is paid for by ourselves.

As such, no one from the Department is on it.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

Okay. Some resources are coming from the Department and the service has employed someone from outside.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

When will it complete its work?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It will be completed at some stage in mid-2019. We have done quite a lot of the work over 2017 and 2018. There are some further areas in which we would like to continue the good progress we are making.

When this work started, it arose from problems identified in audits. Is that correct?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Indeed.

What problems were identified in the audits that led to this review?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We are focused on three areas. One is financial and cash handling-----

What problems led to this being done? What issues were identified from the audits?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There were general concerns around cash handling at prison level, in particular from an internal audit perspective. One of the areas was management of bail money at prison level. People can come and pay their bail money in at a prison level. We are talking about a significant amount and ensuring robust procedures for cash handling are in place was one of the reasons of the review.

Bail money is an official matter. Are staff assigned?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Indeed. They are staff in our general offices.

As such, this is not a prisoner issue but a staff issue.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely. It is the administrative functions at prison level which are carried out by a group of administrative staff members employed by the Prison Service for the purpose.

We have cash handling and bail money. What other issues were identified?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have been looking at areas around sentence calculation and ensuring we do not release people early or late. I mentioned earlier that we have a significant number of unlawful detention claims. As such, it is important that we do not keep someone past his or her sentence expiration date. One of the former governors to whom I referred brings a great deal of technical skill and knowledge to bear around sentence calculation, which is complicated and technical in nature. Between the middle and end of 2018, we conducted a review of 1,500 prisoners and checked individually that their warrant and sentence calculations were correct to ensure they did not give rise to future claims. That is a particular area.

That is very good and it is welcome. What is being carried out is a review of a mix of matters, not just matters which concern prisoners on the level where they are running shops or voluntary mess committees. There are also issues relating to staff.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

It would be helpful to get a note on this. We might do it at the end of the meeting.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

Is the public purse liable in respect of these matters? Was there a worry the public purse would have to pick up the tab for mistakes made or a lack of governance?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

As I mentioned, one of our key objectives is to reduce the number of claims for which we are liable. One of those claim areas is around unlawful detention. If we have systems of insurance and checks and balances in place at prison level, it mitigates any compensation we might be exposed to at a future date.

What about voluntary mess committees? I presume staff eat as well as a result of the prisoners' cooking. As such, there is a mix here. Is that correct?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

That is welcome. Ms McCaffrey does not need to justify the canteen facilities. However, she needs to deal with accountability in these matters. It does not only involve prisoners; there is a mix. The prisoners work in the kitchens and there are various advantages to that on many levels, but staff also eat there.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Ms McCaffrey stated this is managed by voluntary mess committees.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Are staff represented on those committees?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

They are. Because of the importance of the issue to staff, they are willing to sit on those committees to ensure good governance is in place.

I am not interested in that. I am more interested in overall governance in this regard. I understand that the management of the Prison Service has been in contact with staff regarding governance but the information provided is nebulous. What does it mean to say that the staff were told about governance?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

My staff met the governors' representatives on those mess committees, reminded them of their obligation and ensured that they are seeking and availing of independent financial and accounting advice.

When did that take place?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That has been taking place over the past 18 months to two years. As I mentioned, the cash handling standard operating procedures that we are putting in place will be of benefit to the mess committees and we have been sharing that best practice to ensure that it is implemented.

Will there come a point in this process at which Ms McCaffrey will be satisfied with the governance measures in place? There have been issues. The Prison Service has been in contact with the committees. What will be the outcome of the process? What will satisfy Ms McCaffrey and, in turn, the committee?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Is the Deputy referring to the business process review?

The business process review is one thing. Ms McCaffrey has been in contact with the committees to tell them that they must comply with governance issues. That is very woolly. The fact that it has only been happening for the past 18 months is of concern, although it is welcome that it is happening. Ms McCaffrey wrote to the governors and the governors are represented on the mess committees.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

On each committee.

Ms McCaffrey has reminded the governors that they have certain obligations.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes. We intend to continue to remind them of that. We will not make people aware of their obligations and then forget about the matter. We intend to ensure that we meet them on a regular basis to ensure that good governance is in place and that the committees have the benefit of any developments in terms of best practice in cash management. We are advising and encouraging them to put such practices in place.

Ms McCaffrey stated that a new code of ethics is in place.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We will roll out a new code of ethics.

When will that be done?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It will be rolled out in the first quarter of this year. We have carried out significant work on it.

Was there previously a code of ethics?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There was not, but all of our staff are governed by a Council of Europe code of ethics for prison staff. We decided to put our own internal code in place for several reasons. We wanted to relate the code to our values as an organisation in order that those values are clearly demonstrable to staff in terms of their behaviours on a day-to-day basis. We have done significant work, particularly with our cohort of governors and managers, to-----

I acknowledge that. The code of conduct will be published in the first quarter of this year.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

This is the first such code within the Prison Service, so it is a major development.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is. We are working on a communications strategy for staff. It is not about training but, rather, awareness. The vast majority of our staff behave ethically on a day-to-day basis but it is important that we have very clear guidelines and guidance for staff in terms of acceptable behaviour.

I understand that. Politicians assure everyone that they are above board and accountable but there must always be an external system to ensure that is the case. What has emerged from various reports, that of Mr. Justice Charleton being the latest, is that institutions are simply incapable of holding a mirror up to themselves. We know that from issues involving Tusla, the Garda and politicians. An effective oversight system must be in place.

It is difficult to sit on this committee and listen to what whistleblowers go through. The word "punitive" is often used. It is upsetting that somebody would feel they have been punished and, further, that there would seem to be evidence that they were punished. That is a matter for another day but we have seen evidence of that in every forum, including third level institutions, some of which will appear before the committee next week. We are utterly reliant on whistleblowers because governance issues do not work. I wish Ms McCaffrey the best of luck with the new approach she is bringing in and I hope we can work together to make it a success.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Secretary General mentioned in his opening remarks that consideration is being given to strengthening the governance arrangements for our organisation. Part of that consideration includes having our own dedicated audit committee and internal audit unit, which will be of great assistance.

When will that be in place?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We hope that some of those changes will be made in the coming year.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We are undertaking a major transformation of the Department of Justice and Equality, which I have publicly described as the biggest restructuring of a Department undertaken in the history of the State. That is not an overstatement. One element of that is putting in place new governance functions on the criminal justice and civil justice and equality sides of the Department. That will provide an organisational platform for a new relationship between the Department and the agencies we oversee. Some 24 agencies, including the Irish Prison Service, report to the Department. The agencies vary in size, function and degree of independence. We will put in place a new governance function which will, at least, provide the organisational basis for a new relationship.

I mentioned in my opening statement that we are discussing with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform the issue of making the director general Accounting Officer and-or the appropriate authority for disciplinary purposes.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

That also will be transformative in terms of the relationship.

I thank Mr. O'Driscoll. In regard to the cases about which questions have been asked, how many relate to sexual harassment, if any? How many reviews are under way by the Prison Service or the Department in regard to cases of sexual harassment or other matters or issues that have been raised by whistleblowers? How many investigations are under way?

I am particularly interested in the area of mental health. I do not have much time for my remaining questions. An interesting doctorate carried out by a young man in Trinity College Dublin quoted the prediction of the World Health Organization that the prison system will become the asylums of the 21st century. It seems to me that that is happening. I ask Ms McCaffrey to comment on that. How many prisoners have mental health issues? How many have drug issues?

The Red Cross is involved in a particularly interesting project in regard to non-violence. It is in place in three cities. I ask Ms McCaffrey to provide further information on it and to explain where the funding comes from. Does it come from the Department through the Prison Service? What accountability is in place in that regard? I ask that question of all organisations in receipt of public moneys.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I will take the questions in reverse order if that is acceptable. The Red Cross programme to which the Deputy referred is a community-based health and first aid programme. It is an excellent example of innovation within the public service. It is run jointly by the Red Cross Ireland, the Prison Service and ETBs. The Probation Service has recently become involved. It is about empowering prisoners to take care of themselves and their health both in prison and in the wider community. We have received dormant accounts funding for the past four years for the project. There was a payment of €200,000 in 2017 and 2018.

The funding is from the Dormant Account Fund.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes, it is all funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund. We train prisoners to be peer supporters, that is, to work with fellow prisoners within the prison and assist them with their health.

That is okay. I am out of time and would like Ms McCaffrey to respond to my two other questions. However, on that point, I asked about the Red Cross money. Who funds the Red Cross and who monitors the usage of that money?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The project is funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund. It is controlled and monitored by the Irish Prison Service. The moneys are disbursed to the Red Cross on a quarterly basis.

There is a governance committee in place that comprises the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and the Red Cross.

So the money is from the Dormant Accounts Fund to the Red Cross.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is to the Irish Prison Service, and then it is provided on a quarterly basis from the Prison Service to the Red Cross.

Mr. Seamus Clifford

It is under subhead A8 in the Prisons Vote.

Okay. I have no more questions but would like answers to the other two queries.

The witness can send on the other information.

There was the question of sexual harassment.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Sexual harassment claims would be dealt with through the dignity at work policy, which deals with bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.

My question was what reviews are under way. Is there a review under way, or one, two or three on sexual harassment or any other matters within the Prison Service?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Those claims would fall under our dignity at work policy. I do not have a breakdown of cases on hand and whether they are bullying, harassment or sexual harassment.

I am not asking what the cases are. I am asking what reviews are under way by the Irish Prison Service or the Department around issues such as sexual harassment. What reviews are in place, if any, by the Irish Prison Service or the Department?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will come in on that and one other issue raised by the Deputy. I realise the Chairman is under time pressure, so I will be brief. There was one anonymous protected disclosure on sexual harassment. Again, a private law firm was engaged to examine the case. That report was received in November and was shared with the Prison Service. As a result, certain undertakings have been given to the Department about procedures in the Prison Service, especially under the new dignity at work policy that I mentioned earlier.

On the Deputy's other question about prisons becoming the new asylums and the relationship between mental health and crime, the Deputy has touched on what is one of the single most important issues we are facing in criminal justice. This is not just in Ireland, but affects every country. The report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland by Kathleen O'Toole is very much focused on this issue. It points out, for example, that the average policeman or policewoman in a developed country - it is not exclusive to Ireland - spends 75% of his or her time dealing with vulnerable people and 25% of the time on dealing with actual crime. It is also true that a large number of people who arrive into prison have drug or mental health problems. I do not have precise figures, but in a recent visit to one prison, the governor estimated it at 75%.

This relationship that the Deputy has touched on between mental health, drug abuse and crime is crucial. The solution to this lies partly in the way we run the prisons but it primarily arises before an individual ever reaches the door of a prison. It is also about how we do policing in particular. One of the key points about the Kathleen O'Toole report is that it does not just look at the work of the Garda Síochána. It looks at policing under a much broader frame and it binds together a view of the enforcement agencies, those being the Garda, the Irish Prison Service, and the Probation Service, the health services, the social services and so on. The report proposes a joined-up approach to that. The high-level implementation committee for that plan includes the Departments of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Health, Housing, Planning and Local Government and so on. The high-level committee is at Secretary General level and includes my colleagues in those Departments and me as the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality. This is a fundamentally new way of looking at criminal justice in the State and it is very promising.

Other programmes that we have rolled out, including those that relate to community release, have been very successful in this space. A very successful programme that has won an innovation award in the Civil Service is called the joint agency response to crime, JARC, project. It has run a number of different pilot projects now and is highly successful. Again, it wraps all the various services together into dealing with people who have a high propensity to offend. These are people who are repeat offenders but have been identified as possibly likely to benefit from a more caring approach rather than a discipline approach. The Deputy has touched on what I would regard as perhaps the most exciting development in criminal justice in Ireland at the moment.

I am sorry I missed some of the earlier proceedings, so I may criss-cross on some of the questions that may have been asked. I ask the committee to bear with me because I was not here to witness the debate. I had other commitments in the Dáil.

I wish to follow on from Deputy Connolly's point about capacity in our prisons. We have 12 prisons, which I believe are full, at a cost of €327 million, and with a staff of some 3,300. Is the capacity there for the prisons that are coming on stream or the prisons we foresee being built next year? We all hear about the revolving door system. I am aware of a case some years ago in Kilkenny where an individual was brought up with two garda escorts. There were costs with bringing that person up, and the garda had to get cover for the day and food and so on. The man they brought up was out and in his home before they came back that evening. I ask this in the context of capacity in the years ahead. Have we enough prisons and prison spaces currently? Reference was made to Thornton Hall. I went to see that site with a committee a long time ago. It was going to be a state-of-the-art prison. It is still in the pipeline, once funds become available, to have that state-of-the-art prison at Thornton Hall. There have already been costs incurred there.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I thank the Deputy. As of today we are at 94% of the capacity that is available to us across the prison estate. We have seen an increase in our numbers over the past 12 months, and we have risen from operating at 85% capacity to 94% capacity.

Does that mean there is spare capacity?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We do have capacity in the system at the moment. Our numbers are subject to peaks and troughs, depending on the activity happening within the courts. As I said, we are seeing increases in certain categories of prisoners. We are certainly seeing an increase in the numbers of female prisoners being committed to custody. It has gone from 122 females in custody in January 2017 to 168 in custody in January 2019. This is across two prisons, namely, the Dóchas Centre and a small female prison in Limerick Prison. We are also seeing an increase in the number of prisoners on remand where 579 persons were in custody on average in January 2017, and this increased 21% to 701 people in January 2019. There are some measures under way that will give us additional capacity. We are introducing a step-down unit for female offenders. This is a recommendation of the penal policy review group. Very happily, the Department has-----

What kind of facility is a step-down? Would these be outside the prison like the Shelton Abbey open prison?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There was a recommendation that we would have an open prison for women, but we decided to go with the step-down model that is run by a third party in the community. It puts in place all of the wraparound services that are required in a complex-----

That would be outside of the 12 prisons.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely. It will not be run by the Prison Service. It will be run by a service provider in the community. Between the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service we will have access to ten beds. It is for women who have very complex needs so we can release them into the community with those wraparound services they require in order not to reoffend and come back into our custody.

The Deputy may also be aware that we will sign a contract imminently for the replacement of the A and B wings in Limerick Prison. That is our next major piece of capital expenditure. That project will take place over the next 18 to 24 months. It will give us an additional 125 spaces. As well as the male wing that is being replaced, we are building a stand-alone prison for female offenders on the Limerick site, which will provide 50 female spaces. That will be very welcome capacity in the context of the increase we are seeing in female offenders.

Is the Irish Prison Service happy that there is enough capacity for the foreseeable future without building a new state-of-the-art prison and that we are able to handle what we have? Perhaps Ms McCaffrey can answer the question about the revolving door system also.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

To ensure that we are in a good position to deal with demands that can go up and down, we are looking at capacity across the estate currently. We are conducting an audit of all our accommodation to see what additional capacity might be available to us within the estate. We also have some accommodation that is not in use currently. The training unit is a prison located on the Mountjoy Prison campus site. It has been out of operation for the past 18 months.

We will bring it back into operation and it will give us 100 spaces. The progression unit, formerly St. Patrick's Institution, also on the Mountjoy Prison campus will give us 50 additional spaces. I am confident, therefore, that for the foreseeable future there will be additional capacity in the system which will allow us to manage our numbers.

On temporary release, we have moved from what the Deputy described as a revolving door to where anyone on temporary release is part of a structured programme. The Secretary General mentioned two programmes that we run in co-operation with the probation service. The community return scheme is for prisoners who are serving sentences between one and eight years, swap some of their prison time for time spent doing community service. They are contributing greatly to their communities in the projects they undertake. The community support scheme is for prisoners who are serving between three and 12 months who can be released with supports in place. They could be supports to deal with addiction or mental health issues in order that they will not fall into a pattern of reoffending.

The numbers on temporary release have reduced significantly. As of today, only 160 are on temporary release, which is in sharp contrast to-----

What percentage of those on temporary or early release reoffend? Is there a problem where they are let out too early, reoffend and back in before one can say "boo"?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

To relate it back to the schemes I mentioned, the community return scheme has a 91% success rate, in other words, 91% do not reoffend or breach the conditions of their temporary release during the period. That is a phenomenally high figure which is down to the very careful selection of the prisoners to participate in the scheme. We are very careful in choosing the prisoners whom we deem to be suitable for temporary release. The compliance rate is lower for the community support scheme. However, that might be expected because of the complexity of the needs of some of the prisoners who are serving longer sentences, but even then there is a compliance rate of 75%. The other 25% are returned to custody where they breach the conditions in being allowed out early. They then serve every last day of their sentence.

There are serious category prisoners such as murderers and rapists and Shelton Abbey-type prisoners. What is the cost per prisoner and the level of manpower per serious category prisoner? I do not know how many prisoners fit this category. What are the costs associated with catering for serious category prisoners? Is half the figure associated with serious category prisoners and those who require more manpower and need to be watched more? Is a breakdown available?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have a breakdown of the staffing ratios for individual prisons. The Deputy is correct that the staffing ratio varies. In our open centres there is a lower ratio of staff, while in our maximum security prison in Portlaoise, there is a greater ratio of staff to prisoners. The cost per staff member is €68,535 per annum. It works out at €188 per day to keep an offender in custody. I do not have a breakdown of the cost per prison, but if the Deputy is interested, I can make it available.

For less severe categories of prisoners, there seems to be a great system in Shelton Abbey. Prisoners can walk around, but they do not walk away. From the few cases of which I am aware or with which I have dealt, it seems to be a great system. Would it be possible to make it better by having more people at that level, offering the type of community care to which Ms McCaffrey referred?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The open centres play a really important role-----

How many prisoners can be held in Shelton Abbey?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Its capacity is 112. There is a second open centre, Loughan House in Blacklion, which has a capacity of 104. The Deputy is correct about the security arrangements in place and will understand careful selection of prisoners is very important. It plays a really important part in normalisation, particularly for prisoners who are serving long sentences, to give them some autonomy to get them used to managing themselves and their own time.

It works though.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It certainly does. The staff and services provided, as well as the outreach services, in both of the open centres are really excellent.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We are trying to reduce the number of people committed to prison. For example, under the Fines Act, there has been a huge decrease in the number of committals to prison. This was part of the revolving door aspect to which the Deputy referred, as many of the people in question would have been in and out of prison on the same day. We have tried to get rid of this to the greatest extent possible. There has been a huge fall in the number committed for the non-payment of fines. What we are trying to do at a policy level is develop alternatives to prison. This also has a bearing on the Deputy's earlier question about the number of prison spaces needed. If we can develop the use of community service orders or attachment of fines or recovery orders, for instance, which do not involve the use of custodial arrangements, it will be a win-win all round because the Exchequer would not have to pay €68,000 to house somebody in a prison and somebody would not be put in a prison who was not suitable for it, given the nature of his or her transgression which should not lead them into a prison.

There has been a debate recently on the neighbouring island - when they are not debating other things - about short sentences - sentences of less than six months or one year - whether people in that category should really be in prison - by definition, the transgressions must be relatively minor if the sentence is of that length - and whether it might be better if they did community service. That is the direction of policy.

That sounds good. Do the officials have any comment to make on the future use of Thornton Hall by the Department of Justice and Equality? Is it still envisaged that it will be used as a state-of-the-art prison whenever the State can afford it?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Department is talking to the Land Development Agency which has been established by the Government. How it now looks at Thornton Hall is as a strategic land bank available to the State. It was purchased and investments have been made, particularly in providing access roads and so on. On the advice of the Irish Prison Service, we have indicated that we should retain about 40 acres for potential use by the Irish Prison Service, but we are talking to the Land Development Agency about the the rest.

Are we talking about for housing?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Land Development Agency's immediate concern is the provision of housing, but it does not absolutely follow that housing will be provided there. For example, in order to build houses elsewhere, other facilities must be moved. Would they want to move a facility of some kind to the Thornton Hall site, which would be one possibility? The agency is to deal with the housing issue, but that does not necessarily mean that houses will be built. However, that is an issue for the agency, with which we are in discussions on the matter.

Deputy Connolly referred to governance matters, as I am sure others did too. A whistleblower appeared before the committee. I was very taken by him and he seemed to be very genuine. We should not, however, call him a whisteblower, as he came here as a witness, but that is the new modern name for anyone who speaks out of turn. Would that man have had to come before us to have the committee listen to his complaints if a correct governance system had been in place? This prison officer sounded as though he was genuine and we were all very much taken by him. I will not dwell on the issue, but can the officials comment on why he had to come before us in the first place?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We did discuss this issue earlier. I do not mean to avoid the question, but I absolutely cannot comment on an individual case, particularly one that is before-----

I refer to why he had to come before us as a witness.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I know and if the Deputy gives me one minute, I will work my way back to it. I am saying I cannot comment on an individual case, that the protected disclosure process is in place to allow anyone to raise a genuine concern they may have. Someone can make a protected disclosure which can be investigated. Sometimes they are found not to have merit, but that is not to imply that the person in question did not genuinely have concerns when they were raised. The protected disclosure process is very important to provide an avenue for people to raise concerns in a way they can consider to be safe. Some issues are best dealt with through formal investigation and that is the direction we have taken to protected disclosures. One thing which I hope gave comfort to the committee was how we had moved towards the most independent form of investigation, that is, investigation by external independent investigators from panels picked by the Office of Government Procurement. They are very independent-minded. They genuinely look at the complaint and the issues raised, assess them and reach their conclusions independently which we accept.

However, that is not the only mechanism available. Under the dignity at work programme, which is a very important programme in the Civil Service now, we also look at less formal forms of engagement including mediation. That was raised earlier and I indicated-----

If all those procedures had been followed, that man would not be here in front of us. I do not want to talk about the individual case. He would not be in front of us if all those procedures were there. Surely he would have had his grievances seen and handled long before he would have to come to us.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Of course, but he is entitled to maintain his position and to write to this committee if he wishes to. We do live in a democracy. There are all these processes in place, I guarantee the Deputy that. It is a fact. However, that does not mean an individual will not seek to go in front of his public representatives. This is important too. In any individual case, we try to adapt our response to the nature of the case. If mediation is possible, we look at that. If it requires full-scale independent investigation by external independent people from reputable companies, we do that. We do try to operate these programmes in a reasonable and open way, encouraging people to come forward with complaints if they have them, preferably within our existing systems but if necessary through protected disclosure. The systems are there and they are robust and independent.

I want to talk about escort duties and safety for the prison warders who are going on escort duties. I am talking about prisoners going out to dentists, hospitals, doctors and so on. I was contacted by prison warders over an issue. I suppose we cannot debate it here either. It happened in Dublin, a stabbing incident of which I suppose Ms McCaffrey is well aware. A prison warder was stabbed and the unions representing prison staff were not very happy with the response they got. It was all hush hush. I do not want to say too much about it because there is probably a court case or something like that going on. What is in place? I am talking about that individual case because it is the only one I know of and I received complaints from prison warders whom I know personally. It could happen again. Why was it allowed to happen? I am talking about health and safety for both the prisoner and the prison warder. There was a lot of concern about what happened.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I hope the Deputy understands I cannot talk about the individual case.

I understand that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

What I can say is subsequent to that incident, which is very serious and is treated very seriously by the Prison Service, as is every assault or injury any of our staff incurs, the State Claims Agency conducted a very thorough assessment in respect of the safety of staff, with a particular focus around escorting of prisoners. We have introduced new escort guidelines for staff. All of our staff have received specific training in respect of those guidelines.

Because of this incident.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The State Claims Agency conducted a review directly related to that incident as a positive response to ensure we took whatever measures were necessary within the Prison Service. We have our new escort guidelines in place. All of our staff have been trained. One of the recommendations in it came up earlier in respect of the purchasing of handcuffing, namely that we would standardise the handcuffs that are in place right across the Prison Service in order that everybody was fully familiar with the handcuff and how to put it on and remove it from a prisoner. We have replaced-----

Would that not have been normal practice before?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

As there were different types of handcuffs in place in different prisons, there may have been a concern that staff were not familiar with the operation of the different systems. We have standardised the handcuffs that are in place right across the system and have incurred significant expenditure over the past two years to ensure that we have a standardised range of equipment in place and that all of our staff have received the appropriate escort guideline training.

There must be an awful lot of escorting on a daily basis of prisoners who must go to dentists, doctors, hospitals or wherever to and from prison.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is massive. To give a figure to the Deputy, in 2016 there were 41,128 prisoner journeys across our prison system.

That is a yearly average.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes, it accounts for quite a lot of our activity.

Are incidents like the one I referred to rare?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Indeed they are.

They are very rare.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Why were prison warders coming back to me as a public representative to try to get some answers for that? Why did the system not alleviate their fears?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Certainly we were very responsive in the aftermath of that incident. I can point to the State Claims Agency, which we commissioned to conduct an investigation, and the fact that we have significantly implemented the majority of recommendations made.

Okay, I will move on to drugs in prison. We all hear about the epidemic of drugs in prison. Have the witnesses got on top of drugs? Are some prisons worse than others? Is the Prison Service getting control of the problem? We hear about people going into prison without a drug problem and coming out with one. What is Ms McCaffrey's reply to that?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have problems with drugs in prison because we have problems with drugs in our communities. Our prisons are very much a reflection of what happens within our communities. Clearly, addiction is a societal problem and it is a major contributory factor in respect of criminality. A significant proportion of people who are committed to custody have addiction problems. Mr. O'Driscoll made reference to a figure earlier. It is quite old research but it suggests that between 70% and almost 80% of prisoners have a problem with addiction.

How are they getting access? How are the drugs getting into the prison? That is the security issue.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Those figures relate to prisoners prior to their committal. We have a huge range and take a two-pronged approach to dealing with drugs in prison. One is dealing with the demand and that is around our drug treatment programmes, which are in place to assist people. Prison and the interventions we have there are a great opportunity for people who have not dealt with their addiction issues in the community to engage with the services to deal with their addiction problems. We also have a huge focus on reducing the supply of drugs. We have invested very significantly in front-of-house security in terms of the level of screening people go through. We have drug detection dogs. We have netting on our yards. A lot of our prisons are in a city centre location, which means they are highly susceptible to drugs and contraband being thrown over the walls. In some instances we have netting or double netting on our yards to ensure, insofar as we can, that contraband is not getting into the prison. It is a significant challenge. A lot of contraband brought into the prison is concealed internally by prisoners. It is a significant challenge to the Prison Service but one on which we are determined to continue our efforts. We have a drugs policy which is being reviewed this year and we are going to look at what additional measures we might take in respect of this area.

I have one question on legal costs. I was going to ask more but my time is up. Awards came to €492,000 in 2017 but the legal costs were €1 million. That does not add up. The legal costs were double what the awards were. Why would that be? How can the witnesses stand over it? It sounds incredible and sounds like an extremely large sum of money. I am sure some procedures could be put in place. For example, with whiplash, a court will only give so much for a whiplash.

There is was an answer to that given already. We all had the same view as the Deputy.

A whiplash or whatever might cost more over here than it does in England. What I am saying is that for something like a sprained ankle there should be a fixed payment and no legal costs.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The vast majority of our claims are managed by the State Claims Agency, which is the delegated authority in respect of the majority of our claims, including personal injury claims. They are managed by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the State, as are our slopping-out cases. The increase in respect of the legal costs to which the Deputy referred actually concerns the slopping-out cases at the moment. More than 1,600 proceedings have been lodged in court by former prisoners in respect of the fact that they did not have in-cell sanitation during their period of detention. In 2017, €351,000 of the €1 million related to legal costs incurred by the State Claims Agency in defending those cases.

It seems very large.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is.

To clarify for anybody who has come in late, 1,600 former prisoners in Mountjoy Prison have lodged a claim. None of the cases has been paid out yet. They are still before the court. However, some of the legal costs already have been paid at this point. The legal fees are very high but the compensation has not come through at all yet. Some of the legal fees are being paid "as you go", before the cases are completed.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

They are the State's legal fees.

What about sanitary services or private sanitary services?

In Mountjoy in the past, there were not sanitary services in the cell. The polite term is "slopping out".

We all know, I hope, what that means. The Prison Service has ensured that no longer happens.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

However, those who were in prison years ago claim it was not proper humane treatment.

It was not just in Mountjoy.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The majority of the cases relate to Mountjoy. There are a small number of claims in respect of Cork, Limerick, Portlaoise, Arbour Hill and the training unit but the majority relate to Mountjoy.

If there were one award given at a fixed amount, all the cases could be fixed without any legal proceedings. For the same wrongdoing, for example a claim in respect of "slopping out", the award in the first case should apply to subsequent cases. Should everyone not get the same award if it is for the same case for more than 100 prisoners in Mountjoy or wherever, and cut out the legal costs?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Those claims are managed by the State Claims Agency.

Maybe I am simplifying it now.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am sure the State Claims Agency has a book of quantum or some arrangements in place. Those claims are managed by the State Claims Agency, which has delegated authority to manage those claims on our behalf.

Yes. I have a few questions because some Deputies will want to come back in a second time.

I will deal with a few issues which I touched on early with regard to officers injured in the course of their duties. I ask the witnesses to take me through the steps. The service states that an injury warrant goes to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and others have to take cases to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. Some other cases go to court. I ask the Prison Service to take me through the chart. We will deal with them, one by one. In the case of this injury warrant and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, what is the process? They apply to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, not to the Prison Service. Will the Prison Service briefly give me the steps?

Mr. Don Culliton

That is the process. To my mind - previous to my life in the Prison Service, I worked in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - I do not recall an injury warrant application being made to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in recent years. It is something that certainly has not been utilised to my knowledge. It is something that is processed through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and we do not have a decision-making role in that.

Is Mr. Don Culliton aware of any in recent times?

Mr. Don Culliton

No.

The reason I ask is because people listening heard about those who get a top-up on their pension on retirement and they can get an injury warrant to acknowledge that, but now we find that is merely a mirage. It does not happen. It sounded brilliant here this morning that there was a system in place but it transpires that while in theory there might be a system, there is no funding to back up that system. It just does not happen. I was getting the impression there was such a facility but now I realise it is just a mirage. It is not there at all in practice.

Mr. Don Culliton

There is a provision.

Mr. Culliton is saying there is a provision there but it does not happen.

Mr. Don Culliton

There are not applications in the system.

From our point of view it is public relations to say there is a system there but it does not happen in practice.

Mr. Don Culliton

I agree with the Chairman.

It could happen in theory but does not in practice. I wanted to make that point.

I ask Mr. Culliton to take me through the case of where somebody is injured in the course of his or her duties, who may or may not have retired on health grounds, and who would go to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, CICT. Alternatively, there would be cases where the person who has been assaulted is well able to continue at work. How does it go? Briefly, what are the steps?

Mr. Don Culliton

I suppose it is for the individual. If I park dealing with the issue of extended sick leave-----

Yes, we are gone from that.

Mr. Don Culliton

-----and the arrangements etc., it is also a matter in which we have not a full involvement. Individuals are entitled to make a claim directly to the CICT. As the Chairman rightly pointed out earlier on, that process is managed external to the Prison Service, albeit that we may be asked for our views in relation to a particular incident. At the end of that process when the prison officer, if it is a prison officer, is awarded moneys under the CICT regime, those moneys are paid out by the Irish Prison Service. It is something that is dealt with external to the Irish Prison Service and we have limited involvement in it.

Will Mr. Culliton explain the situation where somebody gets to the end of his or her sick leave as the result of an injury on the job, does not feel it fair he or she should be retired on ill-health grounds, and is off payroll? How many prison officers are on the Prison Service's books but off payroll and receiving no payment at all?

Mr. Don Culliton

I do not have those figures available to me and I will come back to the Chairman on that.

This sounds a most unfair situation. There are prison officers injured in the course of their work, they have exhausted their sick leave, they probably feel they want to do some light duties, and the Prison Service is saying there is not a great facility for it as the person is not fit for work. In the meantime, the prison officer has not been pensioned off - or whatever is the phrase one likes to use - but has no money. Such staff are off payroll receiving nothing. Is there much of this? This sounds very unfair for somebody who was injured doing his or her job on behalf of the State. I am trying to highlight the unfairness here.

Mr. Don Culliton

First, I fully understand the Chairman's view in this regard. The reality is we are bound. We cannot extend beyond what is provided for under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I understand.

Mr. Don Culliton

As the director general stated earlier on in her contribution, following on from our experience we approached the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and specific arrangements were put in place for additional sick leave for individual officers who were injured in the course of their duties. That is a scheme that is sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We are looking to have that particular regime reviewed and we want to actively engage in that with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. However, as it stands at this point in time, and I cannot give any better answer than this, we are limited in what we can do.

Nobody has benefitted yet from that scheme.

Mr. Don Culliton

From the extended sick leave scheme, they have.

A time comes then at the end of it.

Mr. Don Culliton

At the end of it, yes.

Mr. Culliton must have some indication as to whether there are many prison officers who are off payroll but still are employees. They have not retired. They are out there.

Mr. Don Culliton

I will get those numbers for the Chairman. I can give the Chairman this example. There were 15 individuals in 2018 who were retired on the grounds of ill health and it is quite possible that a number of them went into a no-pay situation at a point in time before they were retired on the grounds of ill health. I will come back to the Chairman.

What happens financially to the Prison Service's employee who is in that position?

Mr. Don Culliton

Sorry?

I presume that when those retired on ill health, it may have been as a result of an incident at work or something in their personal life.

Mr. Don Culliton

It could be either. It could be an injury on duty or it could be, as the Chairman mentioned, cancer, etc. People may become permanently unfit to work for various different reasons, including injury on duty.

I ask Mr. Culliton to give us specific numbers on that. One would hope it is a tiny number.

Mr. Don Culliton

It is a tiny number. The Chairman was concerned that certain individual officers may find themselves in a no-pay situation. Because of the new sick leave arrangements implemented by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2014, nobody goes into a no-pay situation. At worst case, they go onto a regime called temporary rehabilitative remuneration. There are payments to such officers, albeit that the payments might be quite low. As I understand it, they do not fall below the threshold that is set by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in the context of disability payments and so on.

In cases where people are seriously injured in the course of their work and perhaps are not fit to work again, in a situation where the chief medical officer, CMO, states that the person can carry out light duties and the Prison Service, as the management, states it does not have any position for the officer to facilitate that, has the Prison Service a discretion to retire the person?

Mr. Don Culliton

We can only retire an individual on permanent ill health retirement on foot of CMO advice.

If the CMO states to Mr. Culliton that the officer is capable of light duties, one cannot sign off the officer by stating he or she is not capable of work. The officer might not be able of the full requirement that the Prison Service would like.

Mr. Don Culliton

The superannuation regime provides that if somebody is to be signed off on permanent ill-health, it has to be done by a medical practitioner on behalf of the State which is the chief medical officer. We do not have any discretion or authority in relation to that at all.

Fine. We are the situation where a CMO states the officer is not capable of carrying out the so-called "full functions" that the Prison Service would require as a prison officer but that the officer is capable of lighter work. The CMO, in that situation, would state that he or she cannot say this officer is not fit for work - the officer is unfit for some work - and will not sign the officer out.

Mr. Don Culliton

We will attempt to-----

What happens then? Do they just go off the payroll?

Mr. Don Culliton

In the first instance we have-----

At the end of their sick leave-----

Mr. Don Culliton

In addition to that we have implemented what is called an accommodations policy-----

A which?

Mr. Don Culliton

An accommodations policy to try to accommodate people trying to bring themselves back to full health to be able to undertake the full range of duties of a prison officer. That provides an arrangement whereby we accommodate them on a lighter duties post, to use the Chairman's phraseology. We accommodate them on this policy. It is short term.

It is on basis they can be fully-----

Mr. Don Culliton

It is on the basis there is an expectation they will get back to full health after a period of time.

Obviously, if people have suffered a serious injury in the course of their work and they are capable of doing lighter work but not capable of ever doing the full restraint and control that is required in prison, they are in limbo. I am well aware of the situation from reading the reply to one of the parliamentary questions I asked last year on temporary rehabilitation and remuneration. The Minister stated that while the Irish Prison Service endeavours to provide reasonable accommodation, which Mr. Culliton has mentioned, within the constraints provided in the prison environment, it should be noted there is no onus on the service to provide such accommodation, and this is reflected in the employment equality legislation in section 37 of the 1988 Act. I am again hearing about all these lovely schemes, but when push comes to shove, there is no onus to facilitate an officer injured in the course of his or her work.

Mr. Don Culliton

What I would say is-----

I am reading from the Minister's reply to the parliamentary question, which I am sure Mr. Culliton helped to draft. Somebody did so.

Mr. Don Culliton

It was probably me. The full extension of every arrangement I have spoken about regarding sick leave, sick pay, the extended sick leave scheme sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and temporary rehabilitative remuneration is given to staff. The only one in doubt, or about which there is a question, is the issue regarding the injury warrant. That is the only issue that is not extended. We extend the arrangements of the accommodation policy to individual-----

The injury warrant is this thing through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform-----

Mr. Don Culliton

That is right

-----that does not happen in practice anyway.

Mr. Don Culliton

What I am saying is all of the other arrangements I have spoken about do apply in practice but there are occasions when we get to a point with officers who, for argument's sake, are recovering from injury and go into a no-pay situation. That is true. In certain circumstances, and certainly in the circumstances outlined by the Chairman, where somebody has not been signed off permanently by the chief medical officer, we look for redeployment options, such as redeployment to a clerical position in the Prison Service or the wider-----

At a lower grade. At what grade would they take up that post? Would they do it on their current salary?

Mr. Don Culliton

It would not be current salary because people have to take on the arrangements of the post in which they are working. Certainly we look at all options available to assist these individuals to work.

In other words, at the end of the day, if the Prison Service does not have a reasonable accommodation facility available, the person might get an administrative post or might be transferred to another post in the Civil Service.

Mr. Don Culliton

If individuals are interested in that, but certainly my experience-----

There would be a serious reduction in pay in some cases.

Mr. Don Culliton

There may be. Certainly our intention is to work with the individuals to try to find an alternative if they are no longer capable of working fully in the Irish Prison Service.

What has come up here a few times is the role of the chief medical officer. Is that an employee of the Irish Prison Service?

Mr. Don Culliton

He is an employee of the State and not of the Prison Service. He is employed by the Civil Service. He is in the Department of Health.

Sometimes Prison Service staff are trapped between the chief medical officer and the Prison Service. To get out the way they want, the chief medical officer must sign something, but he says it is not his problem if he thinks they are capable of working but the Prison Service cannot reasonably accommodate them. Some people find themselves trapped. Does Mr. Culliton have influence to tell the chief medical officer to sign the form because a person is impaired? The chief medical officer will not do so and sign out the person because he or she is capable of doing light work. In the meantime the injured officer is out there, and Deputy Aylward highlighted a case a moment ago. I know Mr. Culliton stated this case was dealt with but he can understand how some of the officers injured in the course of their work feel let down by the system. What can happen to bring this handful of cases to a conclusion?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I assure the Chairman-----

People have to get certificates of impairment from the chief medical officer if they want an injury warrant, but now I realise the injury warrant is a waste of time because the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform does not use it. In response to another parliamentary question last year, I was told the number of people who retired from the Irish Prison Service due to ill health in 2017 was 17, and in 2016 it was it was 19. There are quite a number of cases each year. Some people feel they should not have had to go down that route and they should have been accommodated.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The difficulty is that we are obligated to work within the parameters of the policies that apply to all civil servants. This is why we went to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2015 to seek the extension of a scheme that did not apply to any other civil servant. It is why we have petitioned the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for a review of the occupational injury and disease provisions for civil servants that recognises our staff are in a unique environment. I completely accept the concerns expressed by the Chairman. It is why we are engaging in the review process with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I am as concerned as the Chairman about the circumstances in which some of our staff may find themselves. Certainly from our perspective we are committed to looking for solutions in the context of the review. We have no discretion to operate outside the parameters of the schemes in place for all civil servants.

I understand the Prison Service is confined to the public service schemes and I know it is looking for a review, but we still have these situations. The Irish Prison Service is trying to recruit people, but people being recruited into a uniformed service, whether the Garda or whatever, and we are speaking about the Irish Prison Service today, know that if they get stabbed in the course of their job, the chief medical officer in the Department of Health will not sign them out because they are capable of desk duties. They will run out of sick pay but the Prison Service states it can do nothing for them and cannot retire them on health grounds unless the chief medical officer states they are not fit for work. In the meantime they go off pay. The public service collectively is not looking after staff who have been seriously injured in the course of their work on behalf of the citizens. The witnesses get the point I am making. These people are being caught. Do the witnesses share my concern?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

There is a lack of humanity somewhere in people having their own silo. The injured prison officer is the person who is caught.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

To reassure the Chairman, it is an issue we continually raise with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It was at our request and petitioning that a review of the injury on duty arrangements that apply to civil servants was opened up, recognising that very few other civil servants find themselves in the position our staff find themselves. I share the Chairman's concerns and I understand his perspective.

I have covered a bit of ground in terms of injury warrants and the chief medical officer. Will the Prison Service put together a piece of paper for the benefit of the committee? The conversation moved from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to the criminal injuries compensation tribunal. I am not asking the witnesses to comment but why would somebody injured in the course of their work have to go to the High Court as opposed to the criminal injuries compensation tribunal to get compensation? This is a general question. What can people get in the High Court that they cannot get in the other and vice versa?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

To go to the criminal injuries compensation tribunal, the injuries must have been criminally inflicted. It is a specific scheme for injuries criminally inflicted on prison officers during the course of their duty.

Fine. Let us say this has happened.

Define "criminal".

Unlawful stabbing is criminal but, we will not deal with that case. We will generalise the principles.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Somebody who was subject to an assault, for example, by a prisoner.

That is criminal. There are assaults on prison officers and that is who I am trying to protect in this case. Why would the people involved in some of these cases feel the need to go to the High Court? Do they fare better in the High Court than at the criminal injuries compensation tribunal? The Prison Service must have some indication because it is the employer.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is a decision for the officer concerned as to whether he or she will take the case to the High Court or the criminal injuries compensation tribunal.

I am very concerned about the answer given on the report a moment ago. I know it was meant well but it came across badly. Deputy Aylward mentioned the prison officer who was stabbed in Tallaght. Ms McCaffrey said the State Claims Agency reviewed it, which is great, but three or four times she stated that retraining had been done. That could be interpreted as suggesting it was the staff member's fault.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

May I clarify that, please?

Ms McCaffrey mentioned staff have been retrained and shown the new procedures.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

May I clarify that, please?

One could have got the impression the staff were not trained in some way. That is the fault of the Irish Prison Service.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

May I clarify that, please?

Yes. I am giving Ms McCaffrey the opportunity.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It was not my intention to imply that. There was no suggestion to that effect on my part. I was very clear that I could not relate it to a specific case but that there were issues in regard to our escorting procedures. If I gave the impression outlined, I apologise. That was not the impression I would paint of our staff.

Ms McCaffrey does not need to apologise. It is just a matter of clarifying. The retraining was mentioned three or four times. If there are 3,000 staff, they could be wondering whether Ms McCaffrey is blaming them for not being trained.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That was not my intention. I thank the Chairman for that opportunity.

I know it was not Ms McCaffrey's intention. I am raising it to clarify it in case some people watching take the other meaning. What is the position involving the Garda and the Irish Prison Service regarding security when transferring prisoners? There are 41,000 transfers per annum. Obviously, the Irish Prison Service has to have a serious protocol. Is the Garda always available at the drop of a hat when needed? There is a security issue I do not want to go into but the public wants to be satisfied. If there are 41,000 movements of prisoners in and out of jails every year, mainly to and from courts but also to and from hospitals and so on, are those movements secure from everybody's point of view? Is there a protocol? The media reports at the time to which I am referring suggested certain people were not available or whatever. Has the bigger picture been addressed?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

As I understand it, there are very clear arrangements in place involving ourselves and An Garda Síochána in terms of where an armed escort is required.

Ms McCaffrey is clear on that. We hear on the news every week that somebody on remand or whatever video links to the court. How many prisons have the video link facility? I am sure that video link reduces the number of prisoners transferred.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

There is an issue concerning the legal basis for that. We are introducing an amendment at present.

Mr. Michael Flahive

We have a criminal procedure Bill being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. It will do a number of very valuable things, two in particular. First, it will enhance the basis for video link appearances by prisoners from the prisons where they are held to the courtroom so they do not have to travel physically to the court.

That is happening already.

Mr. Michael Flahive

It is happening already but the legislation will expand the legal basis, apply it to more cases and make it easier to happen. The other thing the Bill will do is provide for the electronic transmission of warrants so they will not have to be physically conveyed from court to prison. That again will cut down on the number-----

That is because the gardaí have to come to the prison and serve the warrant-----

Mr. Michael Flahive

Or prison officers.

-----or it has to be given to somebody to pass on to the prison. How many video links were there last year between the Prison Service and the courts? For every one, there is one transfer less.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We had 3,000 court appearances conducted by video link last year. That accounted for 9% of all court appearances.

That is a small percentage. The Irish Prison Service is trying to increase that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The legislative changes will allow us to enhance the number greatly.

I presume they are remand issues.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Primarily.

Primarily. We hear this referred to. Ms McCaffrey is saying the process is in its infancy.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

A broader issue in this regard was raised in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. It raises the issue of the use of gardaí for prison escorts. The commission felt it was not a great use of garda time and not a core function. It picked up on a value-for-money review that was carried out on this question in 2017. As part of the implementation programme concerning the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, there will be a strand looking specifically at the question of prison escorts and how we can rationalise the process, taking into account the increased use of video but also examining the use of gardaí and Prison Service staff and the optimal arrangement.

There is a court in the Wheatfield complex, or the west Dublin complex. That obviously reduces-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, and that is part of the solution.

Is there a court in the Mountjoy complex?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

Did every one of the 41,000 transfers require a Garda escort, or just some?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The majority are conducted by Irish Prison Service staff.

I thought a garda had to be involved in each transfer.

The majority are to or from the District Court or whatever and might not require a garda. I will not put all my questions now and will come back a second time. How many cases involving the Irish Prison Service are before the Labour Relations Commission?

Mr. Don Culliton

I do not have an exact number. I would say it is in the tens. There might be ten cases, or 20 at most, but I can get a figure for the Chairman.

Okay. We mentioned assaults on prison officers a minute ago. What is the process in place and the protocol involving the Irish Prison Service and Garda regarding the taking of witness statements? If it happens in a public place, that is fine. Let us say it happens within the four walls of a prison. Does everything have to go through the governor? What is the protocol? Do the gardaí come in and physically question every witness?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is a Garda liaison officer in place for every one of our prisons. There is a specific Garda liaison contact for each prison. Where there is an assault on a member of our staff, it is notified by the governor to the Garda liaison officer. It would obviously be notified by the person concerned to the Garda. There are arrangements in place between the prison and the local Garda station for the notification of assaults.

Would these be criminal offences possibly leading to court cases and prosecution?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

What is the protocol for deciding the witnesses from whom statements need to be taken? Has the governor any role in this?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That would be a matter for the Garda. It would be a criminal investigation so it would be a matter for the Garda to determine.

I thought there was some protocol. We were told before that if there is a case involving a prison officer, the governor is notified and that it is then up to him or her to inform the staff member of the issue. We have heard that if there is an issue involving a prison officer, the Garda does not deal directly with individual prison officers. It works through the governor or the liaison officer as the case may be.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not entirely sure what that refers to but there are certainly arrangements in place for communication and liaison between the governor of each prison and An Garda Síochána. If the matter relates to an assault on a member of staff, it would be a matter for An Garda Síochána to determine whether to conduct a criminal investigation into it.

I understand that and we are agreed on it, but I refer to the decision on what witness statements are taken. It seems that the governor or liaison officer has some role in channelling the information from the prison to gardaí to some extent.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I apologise if we keep saying we will come back to the Chairman on the issue but I am not aware of that arrangement. I can certainly make inquiries.

It has been highlighted to us, as members, that information was being channelled relative to the prison officer affected. It was said the information was channelled by the governor to the Garda or liaison officer but it was not given down to the prison officer, which led to difficulty. I am not asking Ms McCaffrey to comment on the case. There is a command structure in regard to the flow of information that does not apply to other citizens in that gardaí feel freer to make contact in the way I have described. The Irish Prison Service has a protocol and that protocol does not apply to other citizens. Are the prison officers in some way hamstrung? I have heard of an assault case, on which I am not asking Ms McCaffrey to comment, in respect of which the governor did not facilitate every witness in making a statement to the Garda. The injured prison officer's case did not succeed due to a lack of evidence. It seems to be the case that a governor can in some way be involved in the process or restrict a process.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Regarding the criminal investigation by the Garda, obviously the gardaí would notify the governor regarding those with whom they would like to engage but, unfortunately, I am not aware of the individual case and cannot give any further information on it.

Okay. Prison security and the canine unit were mentioned. How many dogs are in the system? In how many prisons do they operate? I am not asking Ms McCaffrey to divulge anything that would compromise the Irish Prison Service's security but to tell us what she can tell us.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have a cohort of dogs available to us. As far as I know, they number approximately 20. There might not be a permanent presence in every prison at all times, but the dogs are circulated around the prisons unannounced, for security reasons, and visitors to the prisons are subjected to drugs screening by them.

My next question is a general one. Does the handler, the prison officer, bring the dog home and look after it? That happens in An Garda Síochána.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No. We have a centralised kennelling system. If I am correct, we have kennels in two locations - on the west Dublin campus and on the Mountjoy campus.

They are moved in a van from prison to prison.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

With their handlers.

Mr. O'Driscoll might confirm it for me, but I believe the Garda handler-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The handler brings the dog home.

There is an arrangement with the OPW to provide kennelling facilities.

Mr. Don Culliton

I can be of assistance to the Chairman. We undertook a review of the canine unit in 2016 and 2017, and one of the recommendations from that review was to examine the issue of home kennelling. We are actively doing so.

It is what is done in the Garda. We will move on. Next are Deputies O'Brien and MacSharry.

I will ask some brief questions. Has the family links programme been rolled out in all prisons? If the witnesses do not have the answer to hand, they can provide it to the committee subsequently. Last year, the programme was rolled out in a number of prisons, with the aim of having it rolled out across all prisons this year. If the witnesses find the information before the end of the session, they can revert to us then instead.

There was an acting clinical director last year. Has that role been filled on a full-time basis?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes. We have appointed a clinical director on a full-time basis.

I wish to ask about two other matters, the first of which is work and training participation. According to the service's 2017 annual report, the capacity was put at approximately 70%, which means a good bit of capacity remains available within the prison system. The participation rates are only 24% or 25%. What steps are being taken to encourage greater participation, given that we have the capacity and it would be of benefit to the prison population?

The second matter is education. I do not know what the capacity is in this regard, as it is not stated in the report, or whether education is available to every prisoner or is based on capacity within prisons. It is done in partnership with education and training boards, ETBs. Participation rates in this regard are usually slightly higher, at 35% to 40%, but what steps are being taken to increase them?

I also wish to ask about the incentivised regimes, of which there are three - basic, standard and enhanced. Can Ms McCaffrey briefly provide details on what each entails?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Regarding the participation rates in our work, training and education services, the Deputy is right to point out that there is capacity within the system. Our commitment is to maximise the rehabilitative facilities available within our prisons. The figures are being impacted by staff shortfalls. We are not at full staffing levels.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is having an impact. Our security posts are the ones that we must man first. Regrettably, some ancillary services can be hit with closures. On top of the vacancies, we have mentioned the number of escorts that the Prison Service is required to conduct annually. We sought the value for money review, which has recently been completed, because we were significantly concerned about the draw of prison officers from our prisons to assist in escorting. We have a Prison Service escorts corps, PSEC, but it is not staffed sufficiently to deal with what has been an exponential increase in the requirements placed on it.

The work and training programme is at 70% capacity. The participation figure provided in the annual report is a snapshot from last November, but I presume it is usually in or around that anyway.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In November 2018, participation was at 24.68%, so it is still a significant issue.

It is not solely due to prisoners not wanting to take part.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

There are other factors preventing their participation.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Effectively, staffing difficulties are not allowing us to operate our work and training facilities at maximum.

Is that an issue for the Prison Service or the Department?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is an issue for the Prison Service. I mentioned our vacancies as well as the draw to PSEC. The issue of sick leave also has an impact on prisons on a day-to-day basis. Where there are high levels of sick leave, they create vacancies within the prison, which regrettably leads to ancillary services being reduced.

We are coming towards the end of our current strategy, and maximising the use of existing services will be an area of particular focus in our upcoming strategy so as to ensure that, where we have work, training and educational facilities, we can assist, facilitate and encourage prisoners to utilise them fully.

What is the education participation rate?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In November 2018, it was 33%. In October, it was 46.6%, which indicates a significant staffing issue in the month of November.

That rate is due to staffing and not necessarily to prisoners not taking up educational opportunities.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

Is there a waiting list of prisoners who wish to participate in the work, training and education programmes but cannot do so because of other factors, for example, staffing?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have an integrated sentence management system in place. Every prisoner who is serving a sentence of one year or more has a personal plan in place that seeks to maximise his or her participation in services within the prison system. There is sufficient capacity, certainly on the education side, for people who are willing or interested in participating.

It is done with the ETBs.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes. We have a school operating in each of our prisons. Those schools are vibrant centres of education. We have 220 whole-time equivalent teachers operating across our 12 prisons providing educational services. Those services are primarily based on an adult literacy model and focus on literacy, but there is a broad range of additional services across the prison system, including librarian services.

Will Ms McCaffrey outline the basic, standard and enhanced incentivised regimes? The annual report tells us the number of prisoners engaged in each regime. I presume the prisoner gets 95 cent, or is that the cost? The enhanced regime's figure is €2.20. This is on page 24. Ms McCaffrey can revert to us. I am not-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No, I have the percentages. We introduced the incentivised regime model to encourage prisoners to be of good behaviour. For example, if a prisoner is at an enhanced level, he or she can avail of an additional gratuity, tuck shop orders or telephone calls. At the end of December, almost 50% of the prison population, or 1,921 prisoners, were on the enhanced regime, 40%, or 1,570, were on the standard regime and almost 10%, or 378, were on the basis regime.

It is based on a prisoner's behaviour.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

If the prisoner behaves extremely well and follows every rule, he or she gets an enhanced gratuity.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

I was not aware of that.

I am sure the Chairman will stop me if I overstep, but I wish to ask about direct provision. This does not relate to the Prison Service, but we have the Department of Justice and Equality in attendance and I want to ask one or two questions about direct provision. If I am not allowed, I will ask them in a roundabout way through the Prison Service.

If the departmental officials do not have the answers, they can send them to us.

That is fine. My questions are on the direct provision centres. My understanding is that their residents do not have access to the Ombudsman. Actually, they do, but they must take their complaints to their centres' managers first. Is that correct?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am not entirely sure. In any case, the normal process for accessing the Ombudsman is to go through the local procedure first. That is true of anyone approaching the Ombudsman.

As I understand it, it is up to the Ombudsman but the Ombudsman would not take complaints that have not been pursued through whatever local mechanism exists in any organisation.

Here is the difficulty I have with direct provision. The majority of direct provision centres are privately run, so I presume a public official or civil servant would not be the manager of a particular facility. It will be someone employed by a private company and a person would have to go through this individual before he or she would be allowed to access the Ombudsman. We need to look at that.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

As we are dealing with prisons here, I was not-----

Mr. O'Driscoll can send me a note.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will do so.

That is the easiest thing.

The same question applies to the Irish Prison Service. Do prisoners have direct access to the Ombudsman or must they go through the governor of the prison first with regard to their complaint?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have an internal complaints system. However, we have been working with the Office of the Ombudsman over the past 18 months and are about to implement a new complaints procedure. Under that complaints procedure, prisoners will have access to the Ombudsman for the first time but, again, they will have to have exhausted the internal appeals mechanism before they can take their issue to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Does that require legislation or a statutory instrument?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

At the moment, our complaints system is under our prison rules so an amendment to the prison rules is required for the Irish Prison Service.

What kind of complaints would go to the Ombudsman?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There are six levels of complaints. We are changing our system to have just two categories of complaint. I referenced the first category - category A complaints - would generally be complaints of assault made by prisoners against members of staff. Category B includes a wide range of issues such as discrimination, inappropriate searches, loss of property, decisions made by the Irish Prison Service, sentence management and complaints about phone calls and emails, so this category is very broad.

If a prisoner makes a complaint regarding an inappropriate search, is it correct that this would have to go to the governor first? Would the prisoner have to exhaust all the internal avenues?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

Are there any figures? I know Ms McCaffrey does not have them with her but I would be interested in getting them at some stage through correspondence. Do we have figures relating to complaints that have been made to governors or through the internal system that would be upheld on behalf of the prisoner?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The only statistics I have concern category A complaints, which are very high-level and serious complaints. I assure the Deputy that those complaints are investigated independently and are not made directly to the governor.

We do not keep any data on complaints that would be made to the governor and whether they are upheld.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The only figures I have today are figures concerning category A. I can tell the Deputy that in 2018, there were 80 such complaints of which three were upheld. In 2017, there were 70 such complaints of which six were upheld. In 2016, there were 80 such complaints of which six were upheld. I do not have the figures relating to the other category of complaints but I can certainly make them available to the Deputy.

I am looking for similar information with regard to direct provision. It is slightly different with direct provision. If someone was a victim of domestic abuse, would that complaint have to be made directly to the manager of the centre before it could go to the Ombudsman or An Garda Síochána? I would be happy if I could get a note about the complaints procedures for direct provision. I am looking for confirmation about whether the Family Links programme is being rolled out to all prisons.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I have the details for prisons. It is currently being implemented in Limerick, Midlands, Wheatfield and Castlerea prisons.

When is it proposed to roll it out to all prisons? That is one of the Irish Prison Service's strategic objectives. Again, Ms McCaffrey can give me a note.

What was the question?

It concerned the Family Links programme.

Will Ms McCaffrey explain what that programme is?

Will she provide us with a note in the near future about when the Irish Prison Service proposes to roll it out?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We implemented a Family Links programme on a pilot basis. It is around facilitating engagement between the children of prisoners and their parents while the parents are in custody. It involves facilitating positive engagement between the child and parent, providing parenting support and training to prisoners, and facilitating them in, for example, helping their children do their homework, so it is a very worthwhile project-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

-----mostly because we know that in terms of reducing reoffending, the link with the family is vitally important. Anything we can do while people are in custody to maintain and strengthen that link is very important.

I echo that. It is an excellent programme that will help reduce reoffending and maintain those family links, particularly for prisoners serving lengthy sentences, which are anything between one year and eight years, as the Irish Prison Service categorises them. Will Ms McCaffrey give me a note on it? I do not want to put anybody on the spot, but is there a reason it is not being rolled out? Is it because the pilot project is still under way or is it still being evaluated? I certainly would not like to see a situation where it is not rolled out due to a lack of resources, whether that is through staffing or any other resources. I would appreciate if it I could get a detailed note on that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely.

I meant to ask about mental health. We know that 20 to 30 individuals are waiting to be admitted to the Central Mental Hospital. Is there a waiting list of prisoners awaiting a consultation with a psychologist within the Irish Prison Service? There are people in my area who are on a waiting list to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. Is the situation in the prison system similar? Are there waiting lists to see-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have been enhancing the level of psychologists in the service. We have nine senior psychologists and 14 staff grade psychologists, and we have introduced a new grade-----

Will Ms McCaffrey repeat it more slowly so we can absorb it?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have nine senior psychologists and almost 14 staff grade psychologists, and we have introduced a new grade of assistant psychologist so that we ensure that we can target specific categories of prisoners, including young offenders. There would be an assessment at committal stage. A determination would be made as to whether somebody needed to be seen by the psychology service and there would be a referral-----

That is where the waiting period could come in.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There would be a referral service that our psychologists would work through. I do not have specific details.

Will Ms McCaffrey give us a note on that because I know an assessment is done on intake? If somebody is being referred, what is the waiting period? I know that in some areas, such as HSE south, there is a longer waiting period to access services. I do not know if Ms McCaffrey has the data on a prison-by-prison basis but if she has, could she give them to us so we can see whether some prisons have a long waiting period? It is about seeing whether some prisons are doing things better than others.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I can assure the Deputy that there is a head of our psychology service and there is a considerable amount of co-ordination and effort to ensure we maximise the psychological resources that are available within our system. We will come back with those statistics for the Deputy.

While I know the witnesses have had a long day and I apologise for keeping them for so long, I have a fair bit to get through so I ask Mr. O'Driscoll not to talk down the clock. Let us stick to the points. How many staff are there on a daily basis across the 12 prisons, for example, today, 25 December or 17 March?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I think I gave the total number of staff in the opening statement.

I am not interested in the people who work in Longford or in the prisons section of the Department. I am interested in the staff in the 12 prisons.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

In the 12 prisons.

Mr. Don Culliton

The number of staff in the 12 prisons, which includes the operational support group and the prison service escorts corps, PSEC, is 3,200.

Mr. Don Culliton

In-----

Will Mr. Culliton give me a rough estimate of people who would be on site in the prison on a given day across the 12 prisons?

Mr. Don Culliton

The total number is 2,709. Obviously, people will have days and rostered time off.

So let us take 10% off that.

Mr. Don Culliton

On a period of over 24 hours.

I will come back to the Deputy on that.

Will we say two and a half? I need this for a rough-----

Mr. Don Culliton

It is over 1,000 people on a day but I will come back to the Deputy with an exact figure-----

It is over 1,000 on a given day?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

On duty on a given day.

Mr. Don Culliton

There are people on nights off, on days off and on annual leave-----

I understand that, so could we use the figure of 1,000 across the 12 prisons?

Mr. Don Culliton

I am not being pedantic about it but it would be safer if I came back to the Deputy on it.

For argument's sake.

I will not hold Mr. Culliton to it, what is it across the 12 prisons to the nearest 100?

Mr. Don Culliton

Let us use the figure of 1,000 on a daily basis if the Deputy is not going to hold me to it.

That is grand and that is 365 days a year. I will come back to that in a few minutes.

I am told that there is a Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, investigation into the area of gardaí colluding with prison services in relation to prison staff. Can the witnesses confirm that?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am not aware of that. GSOC could be investigating anything and I am not aware of all its investigations because it operates independently.

Is Mr. O'Driscoll aware of any of them?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am aware of some.

Why would Mr. O'Driscoll be aware of some and not others?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Because some have been referred to GSOC by us.

In the Prison Service itself, would the director general be aware of GSOC?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

As far as Ms McCaffrey is concerned, there is no investigation.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not aware of any investigations.

Surely GSOC would let Ms McCaffrey know because it would want to question people or it would be asking questions?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not aware of any GSOC investigations.

Okay, we will leave that one there.

Did the Prison Service hire a private company to install cameras? While this was touched on earlier and I may not have been paying attention properly, I do not believe it was teased out. This is independent of the normal camera services that the service obviously has for security and so on but were cameras installed to watch staff?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

There was a question earlier asking whether we could provide figures for any expenditure on surveillance-----

Yes, but rather than answer that question could the witnesses answer my question? They are clearly different questions.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It is actually the same question. We have agreed that we will provide those figures and we will look at what expenditure there was on surveillance over the period and provide a breakdown.

Surveillance could mean someone following me down the street or it could mean listening to phone calls. It could mean many things so I am interested in finding out if cameras were installed. That is a capital expenditure and I am sure that the Department or the Prison Service would know about it. I am taking a mental note that the Secretary General is answering a lot of the questions.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I presume there are cameras in prisons all over the place and they have lots of CCTV and so on-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Please let me finish Deputy-----

Let us cut to the chase here.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes let us cut to the chase but let me just finish, as otherwise we cannot do so. Will the Deputy leave me to just finish the point?

Okay, we are agreed.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

As the Deputy knows, there is an Inspector of Prisons investigation into certain allegations that have been raised. I was asked earlier on when that was likely to complete and I said that the terms of reference ask that it be completed by the end of February or as soon as possible thereafter. We have to allow the inspector discretion on what time she needs. In the meantime, this is an issue where there is an affidavit that has not yet been opened, it is in front of the High Court, it is sub judice and we cannot talk about it.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

However-----

-----I did not mention that.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----a question was put earlier and it was put rather well, asking us to provide whatever expenditure there has been on surveillance over the past five years and we said that we will provide that because there is no reason for us not to do so.

I might say that was a superior kick for touch. If we are stuck for a number ten and Jonathan Sexton gets injured we will be calling Mr. O'Driscoll.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I was not a bad rugby player in my day.

I would say so, certainly as a tactician anyway. I ask Ms McCaffrey if any cameras were installed in prisons to watch staff?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Again, that is-----

If I may, to the best of my reckoning Mr. O'Driscoll is not the director general of the Irish Prison Service. In fact he-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

No, I am the Accounting Officer for the prison Vote.

-----could not possibly have the level of expertise on the day-to-day operations-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Deputy is absolutely right.

-----as the people accompanying him because he was in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at the time. It is a pretty clear question; did we install cameras to watch staff, yes or no? In the interests of the efforts of the good Inspector of Prisons, who I know is not overrun with resources and staff, Ms McCaffrey could help her by answering the question for us. Did we install cameras?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Around 2015, the Irish Prison Service introduced a policy on covert surveillance. In order to engage in covert surveillance, the permission of the director of operations is required in accordance with that policy and I can confirm that the director of operations has not provided any authority for covert surveillance to take place within our prisons. That is as much as I can tell the Deputy.

That means that there is none.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In 2015 we introduced a policy that is very clear on the decision making around the installation of covert surveillance-----

So if there were cameras up and running to surveil people before that, would they be exempt from that new policy?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am aware of one camera regarding an incident in Wheatfield Prison that is an historical case but I am not aware of any others.

Has it been kept there just in case there is a repetition of the historical case?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No it has not-----

Okay, it is gone.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

-----but when we became aware of it we introduced a very clear policy that gave robust arrangements for the approval of covert surveillance.

I am not talking about any protected disclosure or court case but there is clearly a lot of staff in the Irish Prison Service and there are 11 of us who do research from time to time as I said earlier on so we can come up with our own information and there is certainly anecdotal evidence that a private company was retained to put in private cameras for surveillance purposes. Mr. O'Driscoll told me that we cannot really talk about these things and Ms McCaffrey is saying that we have a rule in place since 2015 which does not permit this, except there was a camera in one instance in Wheatfield Prison which no longer exists, so I am taking that as a "No".

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We have been asked to provide figures for the last five years for any expenditure on surveillance and in fairness, it was accepted by the committee earlier that we would come back on that point and give the committee any figures for surveillance over those years.

I want to clarify this. Ms McCaffrey said that the procedure is in place. Has the director of operations the authority to-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is permission. If any covert surveillance is required to be undertaken within any Irish Prison Service premises, the permission of the director of operations is required.

Ms McCaffrey is saying that he has not given any such permission?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

In accordance with that policy.

Could somebody more senior than the director of operations have done it?

Who is more senior?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The only person more senior is the director general.

It is on the chart on page 11.

The director general is here with us, namely, Ms McCaffrey. Does she report to Mr. O'Driscoll?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

We came across governor discretion earlier on with regard to mobile phones, is there governor discretion here?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That policy is very clear on authorisation. The authorisation of our director of operations is required and there is no discretion at any level and the-----

I remember the Wheatfield incident because it was publicly acknowledged. It was a tuck shop in the prison and it was the Data Protection Commissioner who came across it was it not?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I cannot recollect the exact circumstances of the case.

Maybe my research is flawed but that is what I came across. The Irish Prison Service did not come out with its hands up and say that it had a camera in the tuck shop. I am saying that from the witnesses' testimony here today, if there are any cameras surveilling people, they are there without authorisation. Is it fair to conclude that from what has been said?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That is a fair assessment.

Therefore, we will not find any capital expenditure on surveillance because there has been no permission for it.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We will look for any capital expenditure-----

Okay and if there is-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----and we will go back as far as we have to go.

I specifically ask for that to be done. Has the Prison Service engaged private investigators, that is, individuals to follow people down the street or home or to keep an eye on people? Would there be any expenditure on that or does it fall under the same directive from 2015?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It is the same point for private investigators and surveillance and we will provide those figures. The Inspector of Prisons has been asked by the Minister to establish all of the facts of a particular case-----

That has to do with a particular case.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It does.

I am relying on my own research.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I appreciate that. Nevertheless, in going through this I assume the Inspector of Prisons will look at whether there was expenditure on matters related to that case. It will be included in her report, but we have to give her time to make it. However, it is not long, given the timeline I have indicated. She should be given-----

I have no difficulty with that and look forward to seeing the outcome of that case. In case we are wrong, I will repeat this. My understanding is nobody is authorised to carry out surveillance by putting in cameras and that nobody is authorised to hire private detectives.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I do not have the policy in front of me, but I think the private detective issue relates to-----

Or to hire private investigators to follow people.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I think the private detective issue relates to activities outside the Irish Prison Service. Obviously, our covert camera activity policy relates to activities within the Irish Prison Service.

In the context of retaining people to in any way follow others outside a prison, the Irish Prison Service was not involved in anything like that.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No.

Has the Garda ever been contacted to say, "We are concerned about prison officer A, B or C. Can you help us out?"

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The only case of which I am aware is the one the Secretary General has repeatedly pointed out is being investigated.

There is that one case. Any of the anecdotal stuff is all hearsay or vexatious.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I am not aware of any case, other than the one that is being investigated by the Inspector of Prisons.

Okay.

On food safety, my colleague touched on the issue of outside catering. Again, it is anecdotal evidence, but the word around the campfire is that there is outside catering at a number of events. I know that in the normal course there might be a soccer match between one prison and another, leagues and so on, as there are in the Garda and the Army, and that there might be outside catering at some event in tennis club A or rugby club B. Is there any accounting of the term in terms of auditing to say, for example, that it cost €300 or €500, that it was the contribution of the Irish Prison Service in the soccer game that took place between the PSNI and the Irish Prison Service?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

What generally happens, if we ask a prison to specifically cater for an event - I used as an example the launch of our annual report - is that the food which will be purchased through the kitchen will be transferred from the prison in question to headquarters.

The cost is covered from the central fund for the Irish Prison Service fund in paying the bills.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

That is fine. On unqualified personnel dealing with and serving food, I note that, according to a 2018 audit, the HSE stated it was a matter of serious concern. Is there any update on it? Are there still unqualified personnel preparing and serving food?

Mr. Don Culliton

I cannot answer on any of the specifics, but-----

As there are 12 prisons, I am not homing in on any one.

Mr. Don Culliton

I will give a general answer which I hope will answer the question. The Irish Prison Service invests significant resources in training its staff, including for the kitchen area, driving and so forth because those activities are part and parcel of our core business. As we have to feed prisoners and cannot go to the local takeaway, we need people to staff the kitchen. On a day to day basis I cannot say whether we might have somebody who does not have full qualifications working in the kitchen, but, if we do, it is out of necessity because of staff shortages. We certainly invest a lot of resources in training personnel.

Is it safe to say, notwithstanding an unforeseen event such as an accident on the way to work or an illness, that all staff allocated to that role have the appropriate qualifications ?

Mr. Don Culliton

What I will do is get the figures and provide them for the Deputy.

For the record, is it Mr. Culliton's instinct that, yes, it is the case, or, no, that it is possibly or probably not the case?

Mr. Don Culliton

As I am not going to say something about which I am slightly unsure, it would be safer to give the Deputy the information afterwards.

I will have to accept that answer.

In providing catering at outside events, a matter to which Deputy Kelly, are the witnesses aware if any prison catered for or provided food at a private function such as an anniversary, birthday, First Holy Communion, Confirmation or retirement event?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

No. That would certainly constitute inappropriate use of Irish Prison Service funds and materials. I am not aware-----

Even if it were for a staff member.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely. Any catering we undertake expressly relates to the role and functions of the Irish Prison Service, either in feeding prisoners or activities at which we have agreed to provide the catering. For example, there are merit award ceremonies for staff, to which we invite their families and at which we present long service medals. The catering is provided by the kitchen and paid for by the Irish Prison Service.

If I was the governor and celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary, it would not be an appropriate use.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Absolutely not. The only appropriate use of the resources of the Irish Prison Service is for Irish Prison Service activities.

Who within the Irish Prison Service is responsible for fixed assets?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

I am. Was I right to say that?

It is great to see somebody taking responsibility. Under the heading of fixed assets, there is a policy on fleet management.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Yes.

Good. Our research indicates that there are some vehicles missing. Is Mr. Caldbeck aware of any missing vehicle?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

No, absolutely not.

I ask him specifically to investigate a Hyundai i40 allocated to the Midlands Prison to discover, in particular, where it is and who has it. I also ask him to investigate a van at Mountjoy Prison and a tractor at Shelton Abbey that my research indicates may not be accounted for. I appreciate that he cannot do so here today. Obviously, there are multiple vehicles in the fleet and we are all familiar with the vans and trucks that go to prisons. Perhaps there are company cars for senior management; I do not know-----

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That is not-----

Perhaps for the governor.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There are pool cars for use across the service.

I want to get a breakdown showing where all of the vehicles are, without the individuals' names, such that it can be said, "The governor has access to this vehicle," or, "Officer Y has this one." There is a suggestion that while the witnesses might be told that everything is in order, it is not.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I advise the Deputy that we have recently appointed a fleet manager to the Irish Prison Service escort corps to ensure there is-----

Perhaps the fleet manager has asked some questions too, not that I know who he or she is. I ask that the matter be checked.

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

At what location was the Hyundai i40?

I think it was the Midlands Prison, but it is missing, or so that is what has been said by the campfire. There was also a van at Mountjoy Prison and a tractor at Shelton Abbey. There is a suggestion lawn mowers are unaccounted for. I presume Irish Prison Service lawn mowers are of industrial scale. Is Mr. Caldbeck based in Longford or Dublin?

Mr. Derek Caldbeck

Longford.

Perhaps they have been accounted for, but there is a suggestion they have not. Accounting is needed in that regard.

On a separate issue, all of the nurses in prisons are agency nurses. Is that correct?

Mr. Don Culliton

No. We employ directly a number of nurses. I do not have the number to hand, but I think it is approximately 100 plus across the Irish Prison Service.

They are permanent employees of the Irish Prison Service and there are so many in each prison, with one or two always on duty.

Mr. Don Culliton

Yes.

How many agency nurses are employed?

Mr. Don Culliton

Until the middle of last year we had a number of agency nurses because of significant deficits across the estate.

Those vacancies were filled by agencies, but we engaged in a recruitment process in mid-2018 and as far as I can recall we filled all our vacancies at that point and therefore the need for agency nurses diminished significantly.

Up to 2018 there would have been relatively little recruitment. Is the Irish Prison Service bound by the same wage agreements with €31,000 at entry level?

Mr. Don Culliton

Yes. We are slightly different. Not to bore the Deputy too much, pre-2012 nurses employed in the Irish Prison Service were also qualified prison officers and so they had a particular pay scale. Post-2012-----

Is it not correct that the agency workers would not have been?

Mr. Don Culliton

They would not have been.

The outcome of that would be that if an incident took place, the agency nurse would not have been able to put a prisoner on report. Is that correct?

Mr. Don Culliton

That is absolutely correct.

Would Mr. Culliton be aware of a sexual harassment that arose with an agency nurse who was reluctant to pursue it because they could not put a prisoner on report?

Mr. Don Culliton

I am not aware of that.

It was suggested that if they did, they might fear that the agency would not make them available to the Irish Prison Service again.

Mr. Don Culliton

First of all, I am not aware of the issue, but I think we have resolved that problem or difficulty, if it existed, in that we have moved to employ permanent nurses across the estate and our reliance on agency nurses has decreased significantly.

On the basis that we clearly we did use them - Mr. Culliton is linking them to the crisis nationally on agency staff - I suggest that he would make contact with whatever agencies the Irish Prison Service used in recent years and ask if there were incidents. Obviously I am sure he would like to see that dealt with if it had occurred.

Mr. Don Culliton

I would, but I would go further than that. I had better not say most, but a lot of agency nurses, who were engaged by us up to 2018 and the permanent recruitment drive, actually applied for the permanent positions and were engaged on permanent contracts within the Irish Prison Service.

So Mr. Culliton will do that.

Mr. Don Culliton

Yes.

Great.

I want to talk about the mess committees. I am told they did not exist until 2012. Is that the case?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We had a contract in place prior to that but it became the position that it was not sustainable for the company that was providing the service to continue to provide that service. As I mentioned to the Deputy and the committee earlier, obviously the provision of food - quality food and hot food - throughout the day is very important from our staff well-being perspective.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We retendered to see if we could get somebody else to provide that service and we were not successful. In consultation with the Prison Officers Association - this was a very big industrial relations issue at the time - we came up with a proposal that would allow us to provide work-training activities to prisoners, utilising the mess facilities that were already there in our prisons, but that the management and oversight of those mess committees would be the responsibility of individual mess committees; that there would no longer be any subvention of the provision of food to prison officers; and that they would need to be self-sustaining.

On the contract that was in place, did one company tender to the Irish Prison Service and do all 12 prisons?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes, and-----

As that was no longer working out for it, for cost or other reasons, it chose not to stay in. The Irish Prison Service put it out to tender. Nobody capable of or interested in doing all 12 won. Therefore in conjunction with the union the mess committees were set up. Up to 2012 all the expenditure on the contractor would all have been above board and in the Irish Prison Service's accounting. So much was spent on butter, so much spent on heat and light, so much spent on chefs, etc. Was it all integrated into it?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It was an all-in contract.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It was an all-in contract.

An all-in contract. The mess committee is made up of a number of prison officers effectively. Is that not correct?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

There is one in each of the 12 prisons. Is that not correct?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

They feed the staff.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I might just clarify for the Deputy. Unfortunately, I do not have a note on this matter in front of me and this is from my recall. There are mess committees in nine prisons.

In nine prisons, okay. What three do not have them?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Our two open centres.

Okay. How many prisoners are there in each of those? How many staff would be in each of those on a daily basis? Going back to the 1,000, how many can I take off the 1,000?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The total staffing complement for Shelton Abbey is 48 and the total staffing complement for Loughan House is 46.

What is the third prison? Ms McCaffrey said nine had mess committees.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

It is very regrettable that I do not have a note on this matter before me, so-----

In which one do we have a contract for the food for the staff if there is only one apart from the two open prisons?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We have no contract in place for the provision of food to staff across the system and all of our staff canteens are operated through mess committees.

I get that. I just want to get the numbers right because I will do a calculation in a second based on the 1,000. I will take about 100 off that to bring it to 900. How many more should I take off because a third prison does not have a mess committee?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I think those numbers are out of the 3,000 at present. Therefore, one would not have the 46 in on a daily basis. It would be about a third of whatever those numbers are for subtractions.

Can Ms McCaffrey give an estimate of what prison might be that one?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There is a very large mess in the-----

The Dóchas Centre.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Yes.

How many are there? I will also take a third of its staff out.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

There are 85.5 staff there.

I ask the Comptroller and Auditor General what is 185 divided by three?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is 60.

Okay. So we will take 60 off our 1,000 giving 940. I am told the mess committees provide good meals to the staff who are on duty on a particular day. The average cost of breakfast is €2.50. The average cost of lunch is €3. The average cost of dinner is €5.50 subsidised. My research suggests that the mess committees typically buy meat and vegetables. Ms McCaffrey said earlier that they pay for all their own food. My research indicates that a very substantial amount of the resourcing is subsidised from central prison stock. That routinely includes bread, milk, cheese, chips, cooking oil, gravy powder, curry powder, salt, tinfoil, pepper and so on.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That would be a matter of grave concern to me and I will certainly-----

It is also for me. There is a bigger point here. With an average spend per day of €10 and we take the 60 off the staff number, it comes to €9,400 per day multiplied by 365 giving €3,431,000 in turnover. This is a very crude calculation. If we took the cost of that food at €5, because it is about €11.50 there, and we will divide that by two, that gives a profit of €1,715,500 for the year. We need to bear in mind that my information is that all these other things are routinely drawn from central prison stores. We know they do not pay anything for heat or light. We know the chefs and prisoners who help are not paid from their funds; the Irish Prison Service pays them from the central funds. There is no rent and there are no staffing costs.

Ms McCaffrey can correct me if I am wrong in this. My research indicates the mess committees have no memoranda of articles of association. They have no rules. They are not registered charities. They are not limited companies. The Comptroller and Auditor General, the top accountant in the State is present. He can tell me if I am off the wall in my very crude calculation. They may have at their disposal in the region of €1,715,500 in profit, subsidised by taxpayers' payment of resources for the Irish Prison Service's stores, staff costs, heat and light. Nobody audits that money. Nobody knows where it goes and nobody knows what it is used for.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The committees operate on a break-even basis. They do not operate to generate a profit. We can certainly provide the Deputy with information relating to the bank accounts held by each of those committees, which will show the Deputy-----

Does Ms McCaffrey see the memos and articles?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

The Deputy should let me finish my point. I can provide information which will show the Deputy that profits of the magnitude he has suggested have not been achieved by these committees and that in fact there is a very modest sum of money in the mess committee's account. I believe it ranges from a couple of thousand to an absolute maximum, for one of the biggest mess committees, of about €30,000. The biggest figure is that for the Mountjoy mess committee. Mess committees operate on a break-even basis, and we are happy to provide the Deputy with-----

Does Ms McCaffrey audit them?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

We do not audit them because-----

Does the Department of Justice and Equality audit them? Does the Comptroller and Auditor General audit them? Can I ask Mr. McCarthy his impression of what has just been outlined, remembering that we have covered the Templemore terrain already?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The Templemore chapter, which I presented, provides a framework on how to deal with operations such as mess committees. It is a template of the key questions which have to be addressed when those sorts of arrangements are considered. What is the operational model? Who employs the staff? Who pays for the supplies and utilities? The answers to those questions are certainly of interest. It is something that has to be addressed within the Prison Service.

Was Mr. McCarthy aware of this?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

We were aware that there were mess committees operating and that there were no accounts for them. We pushed for the inclusion of a disclosure in the appropriation account in 2017.

What was Mr. McCarthy told?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The information we were given is in the appropriation account.

What information was given?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is available in note 6.6 and has been looked at already.

Will the secretariat put that on the screen?

I am conscious that the witnesses have been here for a long time.

So am I, but there is a lot of cash involved here. I wish I had had more time this morning.

I am not cutting the Deputy short at all. However, if he believes we are going to go beyond 17.30, which is no issue, we should have perhaps a three minute break in case any witness wants a comfort break.

If they want a three minute break they can-----

I am going to call a five minute break. I am not restricting the Deputy's time, but I just want to give-----

I do not plan to go much further, but-----

-----people a break.

-----I believe this issue has to be teased out a little bit further.

Sitting suspended at 5.25 p.m. and resumed at 5.30 p.m.

We are back in public session.

Who was in possession? I think there was an answer ongoing.

Deputy MacSharry had put a question to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Does he remember my last question or will I repeat it?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Perhaps if the Deputy would repeat it.

I will ramble again then.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Or will I ramble again?

We will catch that train in a second. Ms McCaffrey said that each mess has an account and that there are small amounts of money in these accounts because they are run on a not-for-profit basis. I am using estimates and that is the reason we need figures, audits and so on. I suggested spending in the messes might be €10 per person per day. That came from my own research in asking around. Based on a figure of 940 staff, that would amount to €9,400 per day. That is how I came up with the figures. The figure for the year would be €3.6 million or thereabouts.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

I might have a useful statistic for Deputy MacSharry. The mess committees are purchasing via the same contracts that are in place for prisoner food. In 2017, the daily cost per prisoner for all of the food provided was €5.56.

That is fine. That figure tallies pretty well with what my estimated cost per member of staff of €5 per day. We know the mess committees are not paying the staff. Do the prisoners who help in the messes receive an allowance for their work?

Ms Caron McCaffrey

All of our prisoners who engage in work training get a work training gratuity.

I am guessing the mess committee does not pay them and the payment comes out of the funds of the Prison Service.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

That is because it is a work training activity.

I understand. I am referring to the money that comes in from the mess account, that is, the potential €3.6 million that I outlined.

Ms Caron McCaffrey

Those figures are based on-----

That is a suggested figure.

They are suggested figures but in the absence of Ms McCaffrey putting forward alternative figures, there is a problem.

Can the figures be provided?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Can I say something here? Deputy MacSharry has put forward a whole series of allegations and a whole series of completely hypothetical calculations.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll