Written Answers. - Prison Visiting Committees.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

51 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made with regard to his consideration of measures to reduce the overall costs of prison visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17099/03]

As I previously explained to the Dáil, a visiting committee is appointed to each prison under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order 1925.

Members of visiting committees receive no remuneration. Vouched expenses for travel and subsistence are paid on the authorisation of the prison governor in line with Civil Service rates. In making new appointments to prison visiting committees I have been careful to try to ensure that appointees come from the county in which the institution is located or an adjoining county.
In past years, each visiting committee has undertaken an annual visit to another prison institution for instructional purposes to compare facilities and conditions in other institutions against their own prison. I have instructed that such visits should now only take place where the majority of the members of a visiting committee have been newly appointed, thereby reducing travel and subsistence expenses.
I am also examining what other measures can be taken to reduce the overall cost of visiting committees.