The wording here is somewhat vague and we have a reference to "provide places other than prisons for the detention of persons who have been sentenced to penal servitude". I know what the Minister intends but this could mean literally anything. They could provide dog houses for them. Would the Minister not consider that it would have been better if he had been more specific about the places he had in mind rather than leaving it simply that they may "provide places other than prisons"?
Committee on Finance. - Prisons Bill, 1970: Committee Stage.
Basically what I have in mind are institutions like Shanganagh. We left it somewhat vague on purpose because undoubtedly as criminological science advances there will, I hope in the reasonably near future, be other types of institutions which it would be profitable in the interests of society and offenders to set up. I have in mind particularly what I referred to in my Second Reading speech, a sort of residence attached to a prison or an institution such as St. Patrick's where people who were on day release to employment could reside at night in order to lessen the gap between confinement in an institution and full freedom.
Would the Minister not think it would be more desirable to have residential institutions such as Shanganagh Castle, which I have visited, completely away from prisons and such institutions?
Of course, as the Deputy is aware, Shanganagh is well away from any prison or institution. I take it that the Deputy is referring to the last type of residence that I mentioned?
As a matter of general administration it might be necessary to have them in the vicinity of prisons but I would not envisage having such a residence inside the walls. For example, in the case of Mountjoy, or Limerick, or Portlaoise, if it applied, I do not think you could have a house quite near.
Does the Minister envisage having a number of these around the country—that is if he has in mind open institutions—and not concentrating them in Dublin, so that people sent to them will not be too far away from their home environment and therefore would be able to communicate more easily with their homes, thus helping to rehabilitate them? They would also be able to adapt what they are learning in the institution to the conditions which they will face when they go home. In other words, would he think it desirable that instead of having one or two big institutions of this sort in Dublin they should be spread as widely as possible around the country?
I agree with what the Deputy has in mind but the Deputy will appreciate that the reason why Shanganagh is where it is is for the precise reason the Deputy suggests. It is convenient to the homes of the majority of those committed there. The fact of the matter is that a high proportion of those committed to any of our institutions come from the Dublin area and it is at present the most convenient place. I cannot undertake that I will be able to provide other places similar to Shanganagh in the immediate future for financial reasons but I would hope that in the reasonably near future we could expect to see similar institutions elsewhere. Again, I do not want to commit myself to putting a second one—when we get a second one—down the country because I would still feel, unfortunately, that the demand will be the greatest in the Dublin area but I would envisage ultimately that such institutions would be available in provincial areas.
On a previous occasion the Minister mentioned that he considered that the optimum capacity for these open institutions was 55. Is that correct?
It is the optimum size for Shanganagh but not necessarily the optimum size for any such institution.
Could the Minister give any indication how he arrived at the figure of 55?
It was based, among other things, on the buildings available there or which could reasonably be provided. However, in general it is unsatisfactory to make these institutions too big. Even in very much larger and richer countries than ours the ideal number in institutions such as this has been found not to exceed 100.
Has the Minister considered the question of weekend detention so that people could be detained at weekends and allowed to earn their bread and butter during the week in order to support their families? Would he consider providing if necessary under this section separate institutions to cater for the weekend detention of certain classes of offenders? Also, would he state if he intends to move away from the detention concept to some extent and towards the idea of treatment in the community, putting more and more offenders on probation where this is feasible rather than detaining them?
I do not disagree with the Deputy's suggestions so far as they are feasible but I do not feel that they come within the terms of this section. In effect to some limited extent we have what the Deputy suggests in regard to weekend detention because we have people who are out all day for five days a week.
Is it intended to continue the visiting committee system in relation to Shanganagh and how is the role of visiting committees envisaged in that regard.
I could deal with that on section 4 when we come to it.
I should like to refer to subsection (1) (a) which provides:
The Minister may, by regulations, specify by reference to age and sex the classes of persons who may be detained in a place provided under section 2 of this Act.
I mentioned this on Second Stage. I think there should be points of reference for deciding whether people are sent to these institutions other than merely age and sex. The Minister assured me that he would go into greater detail in the regulations which would be laid before the House laying down the criteria whereby people would be selected to be sent to these institutions. I should like the Minister to elaborate on the criteria that will be used to decide whether or not people will be sent to Shanganagh Castle and other such institutions. In deciding whether people come within the criteria which will determine their being sent to Shanganagh Castle, will he be basing this on a psychological examination of the prisoners and a detailed examination of their criminal background and tendencies? Does he consider that we need much more intensive screening procedures than we have at present to determine the type of treatment appropriate to each prisoner?
The general intention with regard to these regulations is that they will be as general and as flexible as possible. The regulations relating to Shanganagh will be quite different from the existing regulations regarding prisons or, indeed, even the proposed amended regulations which are in process of being prepared at present. They will be of a general and flexible character to allow the staff the greatest freedom in each individual case to deal as beneficially as possible with each separate individual, to try to treat each offender who is in Shanganagh as an individual and to try to deal with his individual problems rather than to regard him as a number or just another head to be counted in the institution, as it were.
We have been looking at the regulations in some similar English institutions. We have in mind in general terms, without committing myself to adopting any one of them, something on those lines and they contain phrases which I think would give Deputies an idea of what is in mind, such as: "At all times the treatment of the boys shall be such as to encourage their self-respect and a sense of personal responsibility, but a boy shall not be employed in any disciplinary capacity." Another example is: "In the control of prisoners, officers shall seek to influence them through their own example and leadership and to enlist their willing co-operation.""Order and discipline shall be maintained with firmness but with no more restriction than is required for well-ordered community life." Those are the sort of general rules which make the rehabilitation of the individual as an individual member of society paramount. This will give the Deputy an idea of the sort of thing we have in mind.
In view of the fact that Shanganagh Castle has been operating on an experimental basis largely, is it true that the authorities are finding it difficult to get a number of the type of people for whom Shanganagh Castle was set up? Is there a scarcity of suitable subjects for training at Shanganagh Castle? Will the training system be flexible to the extent of dealing with a wide variety of cases?
Yes, I think it will be flexible. I am not aware that there is a shortage of what one might call suitable applicants for Shanganagh.
The Minister used those words, I think, on Second Reading.
As I said on Second Reading, the staff there at present is 20. It is hoped that within 12 months it will be increased to 30. This will include a wide variety of teachers and many of them will be part-time as I already mentioned. We have been promised two part-time teachers very kindly by the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee. On our own full-time staff there were also several teachers. I gave a fairly comprehensive list on Second Reading of the sort of courses that could be undertaken there. I regard the most important one as a sort of basic remedial education because it is a bit futile to try to teach some particular skill to a young person unless he has a reasonable basic primary education. Unfortunately the figures show, as Deputies will be aware, that a very high proportion of the boys who are sent to these institutions have a totally inadequate primary education.
Would the Minister consider the point I made before in relation to these regulations, that there is need for better screening procedures to go in depth into the prisoner's background and capabilities to ensure that he will be given the right sort of treatment? Our present procedures are inadequate in that regard. Would he clarify the purpose of subsection (1) (b)? Would he indicate if under subsection (2) there will be any possibility of the prisoners having some form of self-government in regard to some of the internal running of the institutions? Possibly their talents could be harnessed to some extent by taking some responsibility for running some of the internal matters in the institution themselves, thereby giving them a sense of community responsibility.
Furthermore, in relation to the specification by reference to age and sex in subsection (1), would he consider the need for having specialised institutions for different types of offenders as distinct from different types of institutions such as some institutions being more open than others? Would he also consider that on another plane we need different types of institutions for different types of offenders, specific types of institutions for offenders with violent tendencies and specific types of institutions for first offenders so that they can be separated entirely from recidivists? Particularly in view of another section in this Bill which lowers the age limit for St. Patrick's Institution to 19, would he consider the need for specialised types of institutions under section 3 for those in the age group 19 to 21 who possibly have different types of criminal backgrounds from older offenders?
To take the Deputy's points in order, regarding the question of screening, this is done at present as carefully as it is possible to do it by the Governors of Mountjoy, St. Patrick's and Shanganagh in conjunction with their senior officers and welfare officers. The psychologist for whom we have been waiting for so long and whose appointment is imminent, will play a major part in it and I should imagine that he will be in a position, because of his training, to be of great assistance in this work of screening.
With regard to paragraph (b) of subsection (1), I think that that is a corollary to paragraph (a) to say that those who do not come under paragraph (a) cannot get into an institution established under section 2.
Why is it there at all?
I think it is simply to make it clear that only those who come within the defined categories will be eligible, as it were, for what I would term section 2 institutions. The Deputy mentioned the possibility of different types of institutions for different types of offenders. This would be very desirable. It would be an excellent thing if we could afford it. However, it boils down to that. I would hope that, at some future time, it may be possible. While I thoroughly agree with the Deputy's suggestion, we are put to the pin of our collar to provide Shanganagh and we are lucky to have it. I could not see specialised institutions like that for some time notwithstanding the desirability of having them.
With regard to the 19 to 21 age group, it would be my intention, in making these regulations, to provide that suitable people in that age group who, from now on, would be excluded from Saint Patrick's should be eligible for Shanganagh. Quite a number of those there at present are in the 19 to 21 age group.
The Minister mentioned the part the cost would play in deterring us from having specialised institutions. Would he not agree——
The Chair must point out that we passed section 2 which dealt with places of detention. We are now dealing with the regulations—not with places of detention.
Might I point out that we are dealing in subsection (1) with the classes of persons who may be sent to institutions? The question of deciding on different classes of persons presupposes different types of treatment for different classes.
Section 2 deals with the provision of places of detention other than prisons. Section 3 deals with regulations in relation to places.
The Minister did not refer to my point under subsection (2) about the question of giving some road to self-government for prisoners.
I am sorry; I missed that. I would not be altogether against that in principle. I do not think it is something I would seek to introduce from the start in the regulations I shall make after the Bill has passed both Houses of the Oireachtas and is signed by the President. I would seek the advice of the authorities in Shanganagh as to possibly introducing something on those lines after, say, an interval of six to 12 months to see how things were working out under the original regulations. I should not like to do it at the very start.
With regard to this reference to the application of the existing prison rules and the visiting committees, I made a number of points on the Second Reading about the prison rules which I feel are a little anachronistic and inappropriate in their present form to the type of institution the Minister appears to have in mind. There is a need to introduce a greater number of people with an expertise in social work who would perhaps be able to adopt a more critical view towards the administration of the prisons. At present, we have on the visiting committees a total of 48 persons. Quite a number are actually retired people. There is only one social worker, as far as I know, among the whole 48 of them. There has been a tendency, possibly because of the composition of the visiting committees, that they have not been very critical of the administration of the prisons. The parts of their reports published in the annual reports of prisons have been so uncritical as to be stereotyped. The same laudatory remarks are repeated year in year out in the extracts from the reports of the visiting committees. It appears to me that they are not adopting the positive, critical role which visiting committees are supposed to adopt in relation to prison institutions. Would the Minister consider appointing more social workers and more people expert in criminology and penology to these committees?
Furthermore, in relation to the reports of these visiting committees, would it not be desirable that they should be published in full for public scrutiny rather than merely the extracts which are published at the moment and which possibly convey the impression that less critical parts are published and that anything critical which the visiting committee have to say is not published?
Again, I am reasonably in agreement with the Deputy as regards the composition of the committees. I should not like to imply that I regard by any means the prison visiting committees as inadequate.
Nor would I. I am just saying that they should be supplemented.
Most of them have a good deal of experience of this work and they do it pretty well. Not everyone is prepared to volunteer for work of this nature and to carry it out regularly over a long period as many of these have done. I would give favourable consideration, when vacancies occur from time to time on the committees, to the question of the appointment of social workers or other workers who would have some special training in this type of work.
What about the reports of the visiting committees?
I shall not comment on anything that has happened in the past. I can assure the Deputy that the 1969 report, which will be published before the end of this month, will contain reports in full of the visiting committees.
I have not read this section in full just now. Am I correct in believing that this applies the present prison rules to the new institutions or to what institutions does it apply?
It does not. The rules will be made under section 3. The purpose of applying the Prison Acts that are mentioned here is mainly to allow me to appoint a visiting committee. At present, there is no statutory power to appoint one to an institution such as Shanganagh.
When will the Minister bring into being the visiting committee for Shanganagh? Has he any particular plans?
I would say within about a week or two of the Bill having been passed. I should have to gather some names; it will probably take a week or two.
While appreciating Deputy Bruton's point that it is very necessary that one should appoint various persons of particular expertise to such committees, the Minister might consider, as an integral part of such committees, a small number of persons with some local community involvement. I have in mind that this piece of legislation deals specifically with the 16 to 19 age group. I would point out that in that area of Shanganagh, as I am sure Deputy Andrews will readily corroborate, there is a thriving youth club which has many local youth leaders with considerable experience of dealing with young persons. While admittedly the rehabilitation of persons involved with the law is extremely delicate and difficult, these youth leaders could give valuable help on such local committees.
This might be worthy of consideration by the Minister, because I am concerned that such an institution should grow up in an anonymous and unintegrated way. There will be some 30 staff members, the bulk of whom, I hope, will be living in or near that institution. Therefore I would ask the Minister to consider that suggestion. The final point I want to make is that there are available in the South County Dublin area certain people who are involved in two major trade unions. They are the local branch secretary of the Transport Union and the local branch secretary of the Workers Union of Ireland, both of them newly appointed in the Bray-Dún Laoghaire area and living in close proximity to Shanganagh. They might be worthy of consideration. I am not making any special plea for them nor have I consulted them, but some local involvement in Shanganagh would be a desirable approach on the Minister's part.
I am in broad agreement with Deputy Desmond about this. I did not intend to convey in reply to Deputy Bruton that committees should be composed exclusively of persons with specialised knowledge of this job, as I am sure Deputy Bruton did not intend either.
I suggested there was an imbalance at the moment.
One would seek to balance the committee with people of the type suggested by both Deputies. I am a great believer in having some solid citizens with plenty of common-sense there too, because one of the functions of these committees is not just to rehabilitate offenders but to act as an independent, semi-judicial body, independent in the sense that they stand between the prisoners and the Minister and that complaints can be made by the prisoners to the visiting committee about any sense of injustice they might feel in regard to their treatment in the institution.
On the section, I would suggest to the Minister that he might elaborate to the House on the particular provision on which I am not entirely convinced, namely, that a person may not be committed directly by a court to a place provided under the Bill. I appreciate very much the sentiments of the Minister in introducing this Bill and in stating such a general principle, but if one is concerned with rehabilitaton, rehabilitation does not begin at a given point.
Is the Deputy on section 4?
Yes. Section 4 says:
but section 17 (3) of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, in so far as it provides for the committal of prisoners, shall not apply in relation to such a place.
Under section 4 persons cannot be committed directly to a place provided under the Bill and can only be transferred under the provisions of section 5. I think the Minister is aware of what I am after and I would suggest that he may be hamstringing himself in future legislation. I see nothing wrong in principle with a court of law directly committing a juvenile offender to an institution such as Shanganagh and I would like further information from the Minister on this point.
The usual practice in other countries who have had this type of institution for a great deal longer than we have had is that an offender is not committed directly by the court to an open institution. The reason for this is that it is very difficult for even the sagest district justice or judge to be sure whether or not a particular person is suitable for an open institution, and it is only as a result of a full assessment of the person's whole personality, background and so on that it is decided to send him to an open institution such as Shanganagh.
It does not seem to the Chair that the discussion of this section is relevant. What is being done in section 4 is the application of two Acts.
With respect and in fairness to Deputy Desmond, as well as the application of these enactments there is the non-application of another enactment—and I think that is the point Deputy Desmond is raising with me—that is, portion of section 17 (3) of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914.
In those circumstances if the Minister thinks that is the point——
I do not like to disagree with the Chair. Anyway I think I have explained the point, that it is necessary to assess these people before they are sent, because you could very easily be deceived by somebody who might appear on the surface to be suitable and turn out to be quite unsuitable for detention in a place such as this. I think the assessment takes place very quickly and, having arrived at Saint Patrick's, they could, in appropriate cases, be transferred within a matter of three or four days.
On the Minister's assurance that assessment is done speedily and that somebody would not be languishing in the formal prison set-up, that meets the point I have made.
There is a possibility that under this section a prisoner who is originally sentenced to Saint Patrick's Institution could, by a rather devious process of the application of different subsections here, find himself in prison, whereas this was not the original intention of the sentence. In other words, the Minister could by application of these subsections get him into prison, whereas he was originally sentenced to Saint Patrick's. I have in mind here, first of all, subsection (b) (i) which provides that a prisoner may be sent "from that Institution to such a place," in other words, to the place envisaged under section 2. Under subsection (a) (ii) he may be transferred "from such a place to a prison." It looks to me on the drafting of this that it is possible by Ministerial order for a person to be transferred from Saint Patrick's Institution to a place under section 2 and from there to prison without the intervention of the courts. In other words, the Minister under this section can exercise a sentencing power; he can, without the intervention of a judge, sentence a person to prison who was originally sentenced to Saint Patrick's Institution. This is putting a bad construction on what the Minister might do but it is legally possible under this section.
In fact it is not, but I can appreciate that a misunderstanding could arise. If the Deputy refers to subsection (1), the first line of paragraph (a) refers to the transfer of a prisoner—that is, a person committed to prison. In the first line of paragraph (b) reference is made to the transfer of a person who has been sentenced to detention in Saint Patrick's Institution. If one reads subparagraphs (a) (i) and (a) (ii) one sees it is possible to transfer from a prison to an open institution and from an open institution either to a prison, to Saint Patrick's Institution or to another such place. Subparagraphs (b) (i) and (b) (ii) deal with Saint Patrick's detainees. It is possible to transfer from Saint Patrick's only to an open institution and thereafter, from the open institution only back to Saint Patrick's or to another such place. The Deputy will see that in the case of a person who was originally committed by the courts to Saint Patrick's Institution, who came to Shanganagh and who has to be sent out of it for some misdemeanour, I can only send him back to Saint Patrick's Institution.
I am sorry for delaying the House. I thank the Minister for his explanation.
I have grave reservations about this section. The alteration of the age limit to 21 years in the absence of any specific institutional provision being made for the treatment of those in the 19 to 21 age group is a retrograde step. The possible effect of section 6 is that people under 21 years who would probably normally go to Saint Patrick's Institution will now be sent to prison. I understand the Minister may have in mind the provision of special institutions to deal with people in the 19 to 21 age group but in present circumstances the net effect in this section may be that people in this group—young, impressionable people—could be sent to prison whereas at present they are sent to Saint Patrick's Institution. This section should not become operative until there are specialised institutions to deal with people in this age group, apart from Saint Patrick's Institution.
We discussed this at some length in the Second Stage debate. It has been found from experience that the difference in outlook between a person of 16 years and one of 21 years is quite radical. Many 16 year old people are immature adolescents while those of 21 years are adults and it has been found that people of 16 or 17 years should not be sent to the same institution as those of 21 years. I agree that in many individual instances there are adolescents of 16 years who, unfortunately, are quite mature in regard to certain aspects of their character; in fact it often occurs that adolescents of 16 years who live in large urban areas are more shrewd than people of, say, 21 years who live in the country. This is not a hard and fast rule but one must draw the line somewhere. Individual cases may vary but in dealing with those less mature people of 19 to 21 years we shall send them to Shanganagh.
Shanganagh has not got the capacity to cope with the large number of offenders in the 19 to 21 age group who need special treatment, quite apart from the treatment available to prisoners in the 30 to 40 age group.
I would draw the Deputy's attention to subsection (4) of this section. The object of this subsection is to give the Minister power to transfer from a prison to Saint Patrick's Institution those people in the 19 to 21 age group where this appears appropriate.
This course is optional particularly where it is envisaged in section 7 that there may be overcrowding in Saint Patrick's Institution, even with the restricted age limits. Therefore, it appears highly unlikely that the Minister will be in a position to exercise his option under subsection (4).
I hope that situation will not always exist, or at least the situation envisaged by section 7.
The Minister certainly anticipated that it might.
The 16 to 21 age limit was provided for in the 1960 Criminal Justice Act. The Deputy would probably agree with me when I say that someone of 21 years in 1960 would quite likely be the equivalent of, say, a 19 year old in the enlightened days of 1970.
I agree there is a need to restrict the age limit for Saint Patrick's Institution but I do not agree with the converse which would put those in the 19 to 21 group into prison. I am not satisfied that the Minister is making adequate provision to give these people special treatment, apart from the treatment available to people over 21 years. This is particularly important having regard to the wave of crime among people in the 19 to 21 age group. In many cases these young people do not continue to commit crime when they pass the age of 23 or 24 years. The offenders in the 19 to 21 category are different from transgressors in the 30 to 36 age group and it is entirely wrong to treat them in the same institution, namely in prison. It is not enough to say we will put them into Shanganagh because it has not the capacity to take the large number of people in the 19 to 21 age group. Will the Minister give us some indication that there will be some specialised treatment for these young people?
With regard to the 19 to 21 age group, there are two courses open under this Bill: I can transfer some to Shanganagh and some to Saint Patrick's Institution. I do not propose to use the power contained in section 6 for some time because we are at present preparing a special section in Mountjoy Prison for people in this category. I understand the work is in hands.
That is good news.
I do not propose to use the power contained in section 6 until such time as that work is completed. I do not rule out the possibility even that we will in the near future be able to afford a separate institution away altogether from Saint Patrick's and Mountjoy.
Could the Minister give us some indication of the treatment which will be available in this special section?
The details have not been worked out yet, but it would be something on the lines of what we propose to have in St. Patrick's. It would be better than what we have there now.
Would the Minister agree that subsection (2) is bad? I am concerned that the Minister should find it necessary to introduce such a provision. It savours of bureacratic convenience. Overcrowding should not be allowed to develop. Would the Minister say this subsection would be used only very sparingly and only in cases where there is dire overcrowding? Could the Minister guarantee the repeal of this provision as quickly as possible?
This is a defeatist provision. We ought not to envisage even the possibility of overcrowding. I believe the problem could be solved by removing the emphasis from institutional treatment and placing it on treatment by means of probation within the community. Probation is the only form of treatment which has shown proven rehabilitatory results. Up to now the emphasis has not been placed on probation. If it were there would be no problem of overcrowding.
We seem to be getting away now from the section.
Subsection (2) speaks of overcrowding. Overcrowding arises when too many are sentenced to institutional treatment. There would be no overcrowding if offenders were placed on probation.
We would appear to be going outside the scope of the section. The Deputy is aware that there is a separate Estimate under which matters like this could be dealt with.
I should like the Minister to bear in mind what I have said about probation; it is the only proven system of rehabilitation. Is it constitutional for the Minister to direct the transfer of prisoners? If a judge sentences a prisoner to St. Patrick's the Minister is surely acting unconstitutionally if he directs the transfer of that prisoner to another institution?
I do not think Deputy Bruton is correct. For many years the Minister has had power to transfer as between different prisons. The Minister has always had power to direct the transfer of prisoners from ordinary prisons like Limerick and Mountjoy to what used be known as the convict prison in Portlaoise. I have a recollection that that particular matter was decided in the courts.
St. Patrick's is not a prison.
I have power as of now under the 1908 Act to transfer detainees from St. Patrick's to Mountjoy when the visiting committee find that they are "incorrigible" or exercising a bad influence on the other inmates. I do not think the Deputy's point is a valid one but I will have a look at it between now and the time the Bill comes up in the Seanad.
If people are transfered from St. Patrick's to Mountjoy it should be made clear that these are people with bad records. It should not be open to the Minister to transfer those with good records.
I have to consult the visiting committee, as the Deputy will see, under subsection (1), about the existence of an overcrowding situation. Certainly, I would tend to transfer unsatisfactory inmates rather than others.
Would the Minister not agree that it is highly desirable that nobody under 19 should be sent to prison? Overcrowding should not be such as to make that necessary.
As I have already told the Deputy, I hope this section will not have to be implemented. If it has to be implemented I expect it would be only for a short period and in respect of a comparatively small number.
What is the purpose of this section?
It is the ordinary expenses section which must appear in any Bill which involves administration expenses.