Seandóir Ó Maoláin was in possession last night. Do you wish to continue, Senator?
Prisons Bill, 1970: Second Stage (Resumed).
Does anyone else want to speak?
There are a number offering.
In that case I might as well. In the newspapers today I read some references to the report of the Department of Justice for 1968 in which it was stated that there were some 773 boys admitted to St. Patrick's Institution during that year. This was a record number. It indicates that juvenile crime, far from decreasing, seems to be on the increase and getting out of hand. I want to express some thoughts of my very own on this subject. They do not represent the views of any other person or body. I feel that we are approaching this whole crime situation from the wrong angle. The emphasis should be very much on prevention rather than on cure of the disease when it has got a grip and on palliatives to people who have broken the law and committed these crimes.
I feel that every possible way in which we could mobilise support for the law-enforcement agencies in this regard should be availed of, and I am afraid that a cardinal blunder has been made in recent years and is being made again at the very bottom of the ladder. I do not think that anybody will agree with me in this House when I say that in my opinion the new curriculum for schools is not going to have the good effect which its sponsors think it will have, particularly in regard to the Irish language. Likewise, the new syllabus which the Catholic Church has instituted for the teaching of catechism in schools is not going to have the same effect as the methods by which catechism was taught in the days when people grew up to respect the law and to honour the ten commandments.
I am afraid that the emphasis in schools and in the teaching of catechism is not sufficiently placed on three commandments, the breaking of which has led to a wave of juvenile crime and subsequently a wave of crime by delinquents. I refer, of course, to the fourth commandment, the honour due to parents, which is sadly lacking at the present moment. I refer also to the seventh commandment, the aim of which is to prevent people from stealing and which instills into boys and girls the feeling that what does not belong to them should not be taken by them. Finally, I refer, of course, to the tenth commandment dealing with our neighbour's goods.
In the early years of a child's life more emphasis should be placed on these three commandments. In the schools, whatever else goes by the board, time should be found to teach every child from the earliest years that the streets, the parks and the buildings belong to the people, belong to him or her, that they are his property and should therefore be protected and respected, not despoiled and robbed and wrecked in the way they are at present.
As reported in the newspapers during the past 12 months, children in many parts of this city have gone into schools, deliberately wrecked and destroyed classrooms, burned books and have even attempted, in fact, to burn the schools, and thought that it was great fun. Children have actually gone into churches and attempted to interfere with the furniture in churches. Children have deliberately gone along the streets and for no reason whatever that any sane person could see have fired stones at windows and broken them.
That to me indicates that there is something wrong somewhere with the training they received. I remember long ago when I went to school emphasis was always placed by the teachers and in the schoolbooks on respect for age and infirmity. There was a famous poem which appeared in the schoolbooks of that time about Dog Tray, and how children who saw old people or inform people trying to cross the road should try to help them and go out of their way to be nice to them. One does not see anything like that nowadays in the schools. One does not hear talk like that anymore. Neither does one see anything that would induce that sort of feeling or understanding among the growing children of this country.
When children find themselves in trouble nowadays they think everything will be all right. They will be brought to a children's court, given a fatherly lecture and let off with a caution. They do not realise that what they have done was possibly very serious and they would probably do the same thing again. There is a great scarcity of probation officers for the schools not only in the country but here in the city. This is very serious because if these officers were available they would give advice to parents of problem children which would help to prevent the children doing wrong.
My reference to the courts leads me to say that something which may make it attractive for juveniles to commit crimes is the knowledge that nothing more will be done to them than to send them on a holiday hayride, as it were, for six months or a year. During this time they will meet many other fellows from whom they will learn many more tricks. The time has come when there must be a new approach to corrective methods in connection with juvenile crime. The thought of even a slap would bring a howl from the many tender-hearted people in the country, some of whom are Members of this House, who would seem to be of the opinion that even such minimal punishment would be detrimental to the child.
Because of the preventive measures taken by the authorities in the Isle of Man they have no problem of juvenile crime. However, there is another and a unique method by which we could rid our society of this menace. That method is one for which we could go back to the old world. It is the use of stocks or some punishment on those lines. This would embarrass both the parents and the children because the parents would not wish their children to be incarcerated in this way. The delinquents could be taken out to the stocks on a Sunday while people were going to church to worship where everybody could see the child with his name and address printed in large letters on the frame of the stock. If some effective means of dealing with the situation is not found, the matter will get out of hand completely.
There is reference in the Minister's speech to the new Shanganagh plan. However this is done or whatever may be the cost it will be absolutely essential that there be segregation between the old lags and the new ones in this juvenile crime situation. I do not know if the system announced will solve the problem but it seems to me that the idea of throwing all these boys together, some of whom would have previous experience of crime while others would be first offenders, is not a particularly good idea. I should like to relate a story while I am on this subject. Long ago I served a prison sentence with hard labour at Wormwood Scrubs in London. Among the assignments I was given was work in the laundry. We were accorded the same criminal treatment as the 600 criminals in the prison. We were supplied with prison clothes and we were given a big scrubbing brush, the idea being that everybody would bend his head and continue to scrub in an assembly line fashion.
On either side of me there were two old lags. I might add that there was only one other Irishman in the prison at the time and I did not meet him until after we had been released. In a prison the prisoners use lip reading to communicate. It is a type of shorthand spoken out of the side of the mouth and one does not take very long to become used to it. However, the old man next to me informed me that he was in for assault, robbery and safe-cracking. As we continued to scrub he asked where I came from and so as not to make life any more unpleasant I told him. He said he had heard of Ireland all right and knew there was trouble there. He asked me why I was in and I said simply "guns." He asked me when I would be released and I told him. He then said that he would be released a fortnight later. He asked me if I would wait for him. He said he was an expert safe cracker, an expert window opener and a good lock breaker and, since I knew something about guns, we could both go to Ireland, clean up and make our way to South America. I was transferred in due course——
To South America.
——to the machinery shop. During all of my time in prison I met fellows with criminal records whose intention it was to find immature fellows who did not know the risks and who could be used as fall guys for these older fellows. At any rate, I came to the conclusion that it is very wrong to put a new prisoner into prison with one who has a criminal record. There is very little hope of saving them if they are thrown in contact with experts who can brainwash them in due course, because I understand conditions are now more liberal in regard to speaking than I enjoyed when I had the hospitality of His Majesty. I understand one can now speak to one's neighbour. If that is the position, it is highly dangerous that raw recruits should come into contact with old lags who know the ropes—that they would be encouraged into believing that all is possible if you have the experience and that the reason they failed is that they were raw at the game.
With regard to complaints about prison diet, I noticed a report in the newspapers of the committee for Mountjoy. They complain that in spite of several recommendations over several years no improvement has been made in the diet. I had a look at the diet chart the other day for sentenced prisoners in Mountjoy and, right enough, it is a lonesome looking job. I must say it strikes me that the prison committee are very far from estimating time in this business. During the last few years, they stated, no improvement has been made in the diet. I do not think any improvement has been made in it in 50 years because it strikes me that it is not dissimilar to the diet given to prisoners of the British 40 or 50 years ago. The only difference is that they give the prisoners a little marmalade and jam instead of porridge. All the other items seem to be the same. The quantity seems to be the same. Of course, the diet is sufficient to keep a man alive, and I have seen prisoners do very hard work on the same diet.
This brings me to the point with which I started off. Are we being namby-pamby in giving palliatives to those people when we catch them? The beds are comfortable and other things have improved with time as compared with the period I mentioned. If that is so, it makes the prison more like a home from home.
That is not punishment; it is a rest. If we are to tackle this crime business and if we are to make an effort to make it not only unprofitable but unbearable, we must stop this kid glove stuff and begin to realise that if a man commits a crime he must be punished and that that punishment must not be of such a nature as to encourage the person to welcome his sojourn at public expense in our prisons. I suppose this will cause a crescendo of criticism——
Not from me.
They are my sincere views, sincerely given and held and I offer them as my own thoughts, representing no other person.
I should like to welcome the Bill, particularly the provisions giving an indication of a rehabilitative approach to young persons who find themselves in difficulties with the law. Many of those children who find themselves in difficulty with the law come from bad environments. Many of them come from disadvantaged homes and feel that society has let them down. The parental background in many cases is very poor and because of that they lack stability and the support they get from their parents. The first six years in a child's life are the most important from the point of view of character development.
Rudolf Aller, in his study of the psychology of character, a standard work in teacher training schools, points out that the upbringing in the first six years of life is by far the most important from the point of view of the ultimate development of personality, and where there is a gap or lacuna in this early upbringing, it reveals itself in the character of the child. In a very short time the child is in conflict with society around him and particularly with those who endeavour to reconstruct his character in school. Step by step it leads on to a situation where he is in total conflict with society.
Many of those children live in very poor surroundings. I have mentioned in the Seanad before how I consider the situation of a child in a built-up area, with no opportunity for recreation or play. I have put him in the situation where the footpath is the mountain path, the railing is his hedge, the lamp standard is his tree and the tarmacadam his playing field. He starts life much more disadvantageously than children living in pleasant surroundings. Gone are the days of pastoral living.
In the US particularly, they have seen the mistakes made in this reverting to the troglodyte in frightful juvenile delinquency. There is nothing colourful in the lives of those children, and people are still seeking to create an aesthetic standard in their characters and their lives.
Psychologists say that environment plays a 50 per cent factor in the development of any child. I mention this because in the rehabilitative aspects of this legislation there will be an opportunity to fill in the gaps in the lives of those children. They are victims of society. I often maintain that delinquents are not born but made by the society in which they grow up. They feel insecure and they show it in acts of vandalism. They strike out at the things around them because those things are symbols of authority. Their scholarship performances at school are also poor, and in modern society there are so many inimical factors in the upbringing of children that did not exist in our grandfathers' times or our fathers' times. We have seen massive development of the mass media and all those things are daily influencing children; daily they see films of all kinds portrayed on television and in cinemas. We must remember that children are great imitators.
We must make allowances for the disadvantaged children and in the Shanganagh development, particularly, there will be an opportunity to create for children a reconstructive environment in which they can rehabilitate themselves and become useful citizens. In order to support the Shanganagh programme, it would be necessary to have a psychologist team and a child guidance team because it will be necessary to establish what kind of children can benefit from further education.
Senator Keery yesterday mentioned the subects which might be taught in the Shanganagh programme but I think great emphasis should be on the educational aspects of rehabilitation, and remedial teaching should be done because due to their backgrounds many of those children do not make the scholastic advancement made in normal schools in normal surroundings. Therefore, the disadvantages those children suffer from should be reduced, and great emphasis should be placed on the educational aspects of the rehabilitation of maladjusted children.
A child must develop a sense of values and appreciation of the community in which he lives. Otherwise when he leaves he is just carrying mere technical skills rather than a developed sense of values. In a short time he might find himself in conflict with society. I would appeal to the Minister to look to the educational aspect of rehabilitation in the Shanganagh scheme particularly.
With regard to what Senator Ó Maoláin has said I would like to pass this comment: he portrayed a very harsh approach towards the breaker of the law. This is certainly necessary in certain cases but there are a large number of cases which, if discovered early, can be helped by this rehabilitative approach. I do not think it would be right to condemn at one stroke of the pen all people who find themselves in friction with the law. Some are victims of circumstances over which they have no control. I have no time for the hardened criminal who continues to break the law and looks for opportunities to do so. I am speaking about an area where a fine salvage job can be done and instead of having people kicking against society and trying to damage it we may have a state where these people come in and are an asset to society, and where their approach would be constructive rather than destructive to the community.
There are three or four points arising from the Minister's words in the Dáil to which I should like to refer. I am glad the Minister expressly addressed himself in his speech concluding the Second Stage in the Dáil to the question of the punitive element in the criminal law and said that so far as he was concerned this element should remain in the background compared with the element of rehabilitation. This is a view which I favour. I am glad that the Minister, without any particular prodding from anyone, has stated this publicly and formally in such an unambiguous way.
There are three things which the Minister said and on which I feel I should comment. I am resisting the temptation to go in pursuit of Senator Ó Maoláin. The Senator could be described as a hard-liner in this context as in many others. When I hear the Senator advising stocks for delinquents I reflect that perhaps he has the idea that with a bit more support we could get Father Fergal O'Connor into stocks as well, and make one job of rounding up all the delinquents and trouble-makers once and for all.
The Minister in the Dáil debate referred to the unemployable prisoners —column 102, Volume 247. It is true that many prisoners are unemployable, or have never been in employment for very long. But the Minister must know that some of these prisoners have been heading for unemployability from the beginning of their lives. I visited Mountjoy Jail once, not in the honourable condition in which Senator Ó Maoláin visited Wormwood Scrubs, but merely as an observer. I conducted a group of students to Mountjoy. This visit was at their initiative, and not mine. I was impressed by the very high proportion of prisoners who had on cards outside their cells the word "illiterate."
It is not simply a question of providing enough schools. The schools are there for everybody. Education is free and compulsory. It cannot be said that it is necessarily a defective school system which produces illiteracy. I do not claim to be an expert on this, but I feel that illiteracy is very frequently a product of very low intelligence combined with truancy. These two things tend to go hand in hand. A child of poor intelligence goes to school and finds he cannot keep up with the class. He then stops going to school at all. That builds up a pattern which is likely to lead him into delinquency. It gives him a strong chance of ending up as a delinquent. Nobody in the modern world is employable even in a simple job unless he is able to read and write. A child unable to do that is putting himself outside the pale of ordinary society. I feel this is something which reflects need to identify children of low intelligence at an early stage in their careers and to provide the necessary treatment for them. This of course is not strictly relevant to the conduct of prisoners or to the Minister's initiative at Shanganagh.
The Minister's reference to the fact that some people are unemployable entitles me to comment that that is so because of intelligence defects combined with truancy, truancy being the consequence of these defects which might have been treated and alleviated in early childhood. That is something which falls outside the Minister's sphere, but I feel I should put it on record.
The Minister referred to the probation service and was frank enough to admit that it was unsatisfactory. It is not only unsatisfactory in its present state; it is a joke in comparison with the other countries who maintain probation services. There are six probation officers, all of them in Dublin and all confined, in so far as their work is concerned, to the children's court. They are concerned with the Dublin Metropolitan Division. They are not even assigned to districts outside Dublin or to the large suburban areas which are not within the Dublin metropolitan area. The degree to which the existence of these six officers represents a probation service can be gauged by the fact that in Northern Ireland, where the population is one-half that of the 26 Counties, probation officers are numbered in dozens or perhaps in hundreds. I have forgotten the exact figure but there are far more of them for half the population we have.
I am glad to hear the Minister proposing to increase the number from six to 13 in the Dublin area and to appoint eight probation officers elsewhere. I am not sure whether this will provide a decent service. I hope the Minister will realise that once he extends the service outside Dublin it will have to be a proper service. Eight probation officers cannot carry the probation load of the whole country outside Dublin. The officers at present in Dublin have an enormous load of casework which they cannot do, in spite of their best efforts, with the same degree of individual attention as the probation officers in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain can give to the people in their care. I am not an expert on this, but my impression is that the probation officer in Dublin finds it very difficult to give proper attention to his charges. If the Department think that eight probation officers can be put in charge of the rest of the country a great mistake is being made. It might be better to leave the country without probation officers rather than to provide a tiny number like this unless it is decided to provide them for certain areas in which they would have a definite, well-defined but manageable load of casework.
The Minister referred to the conditions which breed crime—column 108, Volume 247 of the Dáil Debates. Nothing in the social science or legal science worlds is more controverted than this. There are many elements in which the tendency to make a delinquent have been detected. Social conditions are only one of these factors. Low intelligence is another. I am sorry Senator Ó Maoláin is not here because I would like to observe him listening to this: heredity is another factor. In other words there are several factors. Their precise significance and the mutual degree of significance which they have vis-á-vis each other has not been properly determined, and perhaps never will be determined, but what is clear is that there is a certain degree and there are certain cases in which a hereditary predisposition to delinquency is responsible for the fact that somebody becomes delinquent.
It is not in other words enough simply to say that social conditions breed crime. We know that overcrowding, poverty, ignorance, all those things can give a man a shove down the slope towards a delinquent existence which he might not have had if he had been more privileged. We know all those things. We cannot assess them exactly but we know them. There are however other elements, heredity and intelligence being among the most striking, and there are even other ones of a more complicated kind, for example, the degree to which the goals which are held up in society as being desirable may operate on a certain kind of weak character so as to induce that character to take short cuts in the attainment of those goals.
The reason I raise this is that I want to use this opportunity for emphasising the need in this country for proper research both into penology, the division of the subject is more relevant to the matter before us, and to the larger subject of criminology. The School of Law in Trinity College has a Reid Professorship, of which a distinguished member of this House is the present incumbent. Part of the duties of that Chair, as I understand them, consist in lecturing and I presume in doing research in penal method. That, so far as I know, is the only institutionalised form in which research or even teaching in criminology took place anywhere in this country until two years ago, when my faculty of law in UCD succeeded in employing a lecturer who is a criminologist.
That is a serious thing. I recall that Senator Miss Bourke's predecessor but one, Mr. Russell, did a study entirely on his own initiative, for which a lot of credit must go to him, in England on Irish delinquency in England. He published the results of that work in the Jesuit publication Studies. Of course, there was a torrent of rage that it should have been made to appear that there were a lot of Irish people in prisons in England. Those truths are hard to face but the fact is it was a useful and valuable piece of work. It disclosed that in Irish delinquency there were factors and patterns present which were not general in Britain. It suggested perhaps that the Irish mentality and the Irish environment might produce a predisposition to a different crime pattern. That was a very useful piece of work. It was a nine-days wonder because nothing like it had ever been done before and very little like it has been done since, if I except the study on the inmates of St. Patrick's done by some of the social science students of University College, and published in the Irish Jurist. There is a serious need for research into penology and criminology in this country, and it is not enough to rely on the results of what may be discovered in England. This is a different country, we are a different people. As I had occasion to say in this House before I thought that was the whole reason for our fight for independence. We are a different people with a different ethnical basis, a different environment, a different kind of culture, a different economic structure, a whole lot of different factors exist among us which quite easily may predispose to a different crime pattern or a lesser one from that which exists in Britain, and therefore the results of British research in those subjects are not necessarily utilisable in this country.
I believe those who have got the capacity to do so in this regard should do their best to make sure that in this relatively small field of practical scholarly research we are not going to be left behind, and we are going to be able to produce results for ourselves. In UCD, as I said, we have got a lecturer now who is a criminologist. Two of our recent graduates are attending schools of criminology in Britain and I hope one of them will be coming back on the staff in October. I hope we will be able ultimately to employ the other one as well. Here, just as in other matters, staff difficulties are very serious.
I would like the Law School in UCD ultimately to provide a diploma in criminology which could be attended by anybody who could profit from it. I do not just mean university graduates. It might perhaps be pitched at such a level that it could be attended by police officers, social workers and prison officers. That would be my ultimate ambition, but it cannot be done without staff and we have great difficulty in getting staff. I want to make it clear that it is not the State's fault, because no obstacle has been put in our way from the money point of view in regard to the recruitment of people at lecturer or at assistant lecturer level; but I would like to see a full-time professor, a real expert, not just a recent graduate who has got a smattering of this subject by doing a diploma somewhere else, installed either in UCD or in Trinity—I do not care which. I urge the Minister to turn over in his mind the possibility that he might get his colleague in the Department of Education to make available a special sum for this purpose. Certainly we could press for it in UCD or they could press for it in Trinity. My experience is it much more difficult to get money allocated through the universities for a very senior post than it is for relatively junior ones. Although I am not in any way trying to shrug off our responsibility in this matter, I believe it might be helpful if the Minister considered trying to make a fund available which would pay a really first-class expert in this subject, and there is no such person in the Irish Republic, to come here and to conduct the kind of Department of Criminology which in the end would produce a diploma and generate informed interest in this subject among people whose careers could be enriched by it, and therefore among people who would be able to pass the benefit on ultimately to the community.
I suppose it is a common trait of parliamentarians to speak for an inordinate length about subjects about which they know very little, on something of which they have very little experience. It was, therefore, with considerable interest that I listened to the contribution made by the Leader of the House detailing his experience in Wormwood Scrubs, that well-known English academy. After listening to his speech very carefully we would be doing a disservice to logic if we were to assume that this kind of experience automatically guarantees the validity of whatever may be said by somebody who has undergone it. I would disagree very strongly with the Leader of the House on a number of points he made. I do not propose to go into them.
I want to talk very briefly about three matters, two of which are very relevant to the Bill under discussion and the third slightly less relevant but certainly still relevant. The first thing I want to talk about is the lamentable pretence of having in this country a psychiatric service connected with prisons and prison reform. This is true of all our prison institutions, especially in Mountjoy. It is true the prison officer in Mountjoy has a psychiatric qualification and I do not doubt the value of that qualification but this is nothing like enough to cope with the kind of problems we are facing today.
This is also true in the whole area of the activity of the courts. There is, as far as I am aware, no statutory provision which will enable a judge to ensure that somebody who is convicted of an offence before him receives psychiatric treatment. He may do either of two things. If the man before him is certifiably mad he may send him to Dundrum. If the man before him is not certifiably mad he either has to send him to prison in the ordinary way, to a prison in which the likelihood of his getting adequate psychiatric help is almost non-existent, or let him out on probation on condition that he seeks mental treatment in an institution. The position of a man who is on probation in circumstances like this is that if he enters a mental institution he does so as a voluntary patient and may leave at any time. The options open to the courts in this matter are very limited and something should be done about it. We have had recently from the Bench a series of complaints by district justices especially about the impossibility of dealing adequately with people who are psychiatrically ill but who are not insane, in the fullest sense of that word. I would be very interested to have the Minister's observations on what I and many judges think is a very severe lacuna in the law as it exists at the moment.
The second area I wanted to discuss has been discussed already to a large extent by Senator Professor Kelly and I shall not go over the same grounds. It is the probation service. While it is an inadequate service for juveniles, where adults are concerned it is virtually non-existent. Adult probation as an alternative to prison simply does not seem to exist. The one extra point I would add to what Senator Professor Kelly has said concerns the training and qualifications of the overworked people who are at present manning the probation service. I understand the practice recently has been to ensure that people who are recruited to this service have a degree, like a social science degree, but I do not think this is by any means enough. It must be acknowledged that this kind of general training is nothing like adequate for the kind of highly specialised, very professional work that these people have to do. It is no secret that this kind of specialist professional training is available in Northern Ireland and I do not see any reason why the pitifully small number of probation officers we have should not be given the opportunity of really qualifying themselves professionally in this important area.
There is another point on the probation service which must be made. We have for far too long done this whole thing on the cheap by relying very heavily on the co-operation of voluntary agencies in probation work especially where cases outside Dublin are concerned. Many of these voluntary agencies are completely unskilled in handling this very difficult problem. I suspect that some of them are not happy about being asked to carry so much of the load. I suspect it is only their natural kindness and concern for human beings that prevents them from refusing to co-operate with the Department on this matter in the hope that they will force the Department to organise a really adequate probation service. The voluntary agencies here are in a most ambiguous position. They are trying to help but simply by the fact that they are there and that they are being exploited by the Department they seem to make a real and radical genuine solution to the problem even more remote.
The third area I want to talk about is in connection with after-care. Just as there is a very inadequate probation service so also there is almost a total lack of any organised after-care service. I have not been to prison so I cannot speak from personal experience but I can imagine that the trauma involved in walking in the door of prison the day one begins one's sentence, assuming that one has been convicted of some civil or criminal offence, and equally the trauma that happens when one walks out especially if one happens to have no relatives or people to meet one, must be very great. I see very little evidence of any serious attempt to provide bridging institutions and organisations to help in this area. This, in fact, is an area in which I believe there is a role for the voluntary organisations to play in conjunction with the services of the State but again, just as in the case of the probation service, the voluntary organisations should not be exploited. The Department should not use their existence as an excuse for failing to do anything themselves.
In all these areas—in the psychiatric area, in the probation area and in the after-care area something is being done and the Minister—I am referring to his predecessor—has been able to stand up and say in Parliament that we have a psychiatric service, that we have a probation service and that we have an after-care service. I think there is one after-care officer in Mountjoy. At some point one has to stop and ask oneself does what we have actually merit the description the Minister's predecessor put on them. I feel they do not and that it is dishonest to go on pretending that they do. We have gestures in all directions but very little real concern for adequacy or efficiency.
In general terms I feel one must also criticise the slowness of the Department of Justice to go into the question of penal reform at any deep level although I welcome this Bill as evidence that something is beginning to move. I believe it is part of the function of the Department of Justice to be conservative, in the best possible sense of that word, but I would hate to think that conservatism should get mixed up with, or even be replaced by, inertia because this is what seems to many very concerned people to be happening at the moment. We have not only, as Senator Kelly said, very little research into penology; we have very little experimental penology, if any. I look to the results of this Bill as providing at least a beginning. Far too many of the attitudes of the Department towards the prisons are governed less by the desire to rehabilitate the offender than by the desire to maximise security and the effects on the psyche of the prisoners can only be guessed at. It is not a very long time since a series of football matches in Mountjoy were stopped because of the apparent threat they posed to the security of the institution. On this and on most other matters like letters, visits, the kind of things which would help to reduce the trauma affecting people, especially young people when they go to prison, there has been an extraordinary lack of activity and an extraordinary willingness and readiness to be bound by tradition for tradition's sake. I feel this is one of the traditions we should not encourage.
There are all sorts of important questions to be asked. I think people should ask, for instance, why it is that such a high proportion of our prison population comes from among the products of our industrial schools. We should really be asking ourselves openly and in public why we have not got more experimental institutions, why we have not open prisons, why we have not even discussed the possibility of having in a place like Daingean lay house parents and cottages and in that way give real effect to the Minister's expressed concern to take the emphasis of the whole system away from punishment and put it on rehabilitation where it properly belongs.
I should like to express disappointment at this Bill although I do not intend to oppose it. I express disappointment because it is such a puny effort in this area. From the speeches made now and last night it is clear that many people are aware of the enormous problems in this area and of the backwardness of the country in relation to it, and yet here under the title of the Prisons Bill, 1970, we have under section 2 what sounds like a step in the right direction but about which I think Senator Horgan is being optimistic. Section 2 relates to places of detention other than prison, but the Minister made the admission that this was just to give legal sanction to the institution at Shanganagh which is already in existence, and he made it clear in his speech on the Second Stage in the Dáil that he does not envisage any further places of this nature in the near future. One can take it that he does not envisage them for some considerable time. That is the positive aspect of the Bill, an enabling provision sanctioning what is already in existence.
The other provision of the Bill is to lower the age limit at which people can be sent to St. Patrick's from 21 to 19. This, I would imagine, is for two reasons; first of all it is one way to cope with the appalling overcrowding in that institution, and secondly—and I think that this is a proper step—to prevent more experienced youths having a bad effect on younger inmates who are going to the institution for the first time. The only other provision of the Bill is to give the Minister power in the case of overcrowding in St. Patrick's to relieve this overcrowding by removing inmates of St. Patrick's, that is those between 16 and 19 now, to prison. This is the cure for the situation of overcrowding in St. Patrick's under the provisions of this Bill.
I think that the Bill itself is the proof of what Senator Professor Kelly and Senator Horgan have both suggested, of the lack of real research being done, the lack of ideas that underlie it. It has first of all the ideas we have here, that the age limit will be lowered for those being sent to St. Patrick's and that if there is still overcrowding in that institution we will allow the Minister under section 7 of the Bill by an order to transfer those people to prison. The Institution of St. Patrick's grew out of the borstal system, which was for longer periods of detention in order to provide some re-training, rehabilitation or reform of the person. As the Minister pointed out, the average sentence to St. Patrick's now is about four months. It is no longer a borstal type of institution. It is an institution where young people are sent whose sentences range from a few weeks to a few years, but the average have short sentences and there is no time for reform or rehabilitation.
The Minister in the Dáil said as regards the only rehabilitation centre which exists at the moment, at Shanganagh, that at times there has been difficulty in filling the available institution at Shanganagh owing to the lack of reliable material in St. Patrick's. I would like to ask the Minister who is assessing whether there is reliable material or not, what psychologists or what trained social welfare officers are assessing these people as to whether they will benefit from the accommodation which he is unable to fill in Shanganagh from the overcrowded population in St. Patrick's, which is being shifted to Mountjoy from time to time.
On that aspect I think that this is a very inadequate measure. It is not one that one can oppose, because it does have some benefits, but it fails to meet the points put forward very well by the Senators who have spoken about this, particularly Senator Professor Kelly. I would like to endorse his remarks on the lack of research being done into penology and criminology in this country. He has stated, which is so, that at the moment there are only six probation officers operating in Dublin Metropolitan District. I must congratulate the Minister on increasing, or expressing his intention to increase, that number, but I would agree that it is not an addition but a multiplication of trained personnel in this area which is required.
We are facing—and though I agree with very little of what Senator Ó Maoláin has said I agree with him on this—a considerable increase in juvenile delinquency and crimes by young people, and if the only response of the community to this is the negative response as contained in this Bill then we are going to be faced with a situation where St. Patrick's will continue to be overcrowded and Mountjoy then will be overcrowded with the overspill from St. Patrick's Institution. Instead of that we ought to be thinking of positive measures of reform and rehabilitation of these young offenders, particularly if they are first offenders, and this would be by the operation of a proper system of probation, a proper system of suspended sentences, and the provision of probation officers outside the Dublin area sufficient to establish the sort of personal relationship with young offenders that will have a corrective effect.
Another aspect which has not been mentioned in my hearing on this Bill so far is the detrimental effect of sending young persons on remand to St. Patrick's, particularly if it is the first time that they have committed offences or even, indeed, that they are accused of committing an offence. They may be remanded to St. Patrick's in custody awaiting further legal proceedings before being actually convicted, and there they mingle with other offenders who have perhaps been a much longer time there and are to that extent—the proper word, I think, is contaminated—by the influence of these other young offenders who are quick to show them the tricks of the trade. Therefore I think that there ought to be segregation in this matter and that those who are remanded, particularly for the first time, ought not to mingle with the general population in St. Patrick's. All this would have a very detrimental effect on them.
I would agree with Senator Horgan that we must be much more experimental in the type of approach which we have to this problem. We ought to look at the Scandinavian attitudes towards open prisons. We ought to prevent especially the young people at an early age from getting the prison mentality by institutionalisation, and this we cannot do without the provision of adequate trained personnel. The ultimate question once again is the cost to the community—what is the community to pay—and in this matter the most expensive solution to the community is the closed prison. The closed prison necessitates upkeep of both the prison and the personnel of the prison. It is the most expensive and the most negative of all systems but yet it is the one which we appear to be prepared to favour as the majority solution with only a concession to a project at Shanganagh which is the only one at the moment.
A centre is being built at Finglas but I would like to ask the Minister if this is to be a detention centre or a remand centre and if he is prepared to acknowledge the importance of distinguishing between remand homes which are of a temporary nature and where the offenders who are sent should be separated from those serving sentences after conviction.
Finally, on section 7 of the Bill relating to the powers of the Minister to transfer to prison persons detained in St. Patrick's Institution, as the section is worded, it is not clear as to how the Minister is to decide on which young people are to be taken from St. Patrick's and put into prison. The provision as it stands is that if the Minister is of the opinion that there is overcrowding at St. Patrick's, he may make an order for a transfer. There is provision for consultation with the visiting committee but it is clear that the matter is at the discretion of the Minister as to the content of the order. That section should be redrafted so as to make it clear in what way this power will be exercised.
Therefore, while I do not oppose the Bill I consider it to be a negative and unsatisfactory measure in the light of the problem and I agree with those who say there must be new thinking on our system of penology. The community have not faced up to their obligations in this regard. By comparison with England and the Scandinavian countries and even north of the Border which we condemn so often, we are most inadequate in this area. I would hope that this will not be the only Prisons Bill that we will see during the next year. A much more positive approach is required in the near future.
I support this Bill as far as it goes but, of course, I must agree with some of what has been said about the need for a Bill that would go very much further. I would hope that what has been said here will prompt the Minister to carry on the good work and bring in another Bill dealing with the matters that have been raised here and which require urgent attention. Such a Bill should be brought in as soon as possible so that we shall not have to wait for several more sessions of Parliament before dealing with such legislation. There have been two commissions on mental illness and on mental handicap and their reports became available about six or seven years ago. In each case the relationship between the psychiatric condition of the individual and the likelihood of crime being committed by that person was underlined. This, in itself, also underlines the need for the kind of approach that the Minister has adopted in section 2 of this Bill not only in relation to the rehabilitation of prisoners but also, as Senator Horgan has said, in relation to the operations of the courts in deciding on the kind of sentence that will be imposed and the kind of conditions in which the sentence will be served.
There are two great needs in this country. The first is the need for research on this whole problem and the second is the need for more people to carry out this type of work from the psychiatric point of view. There are two kinds of research that should be going on. First, there is the sociological variety to which Senators Horgan and Bourke have referred and there is the biological variety. We understand practically nothing about the kind of psychiatric set-up or the kind of biological set-up which gives rise to crime. A certain amount of sociological circumstances have been investigated. We know, for instance, about the effect of broken homes and similar circumstances but as far as the biological side is concerned—fundamentally this is probably the most important—very little information is available.
As an indication of what I am talking about I would mention the observation made a few years ago that a certain type of aggressive criminal is, in fact, determined and predisposed towards his behaviour by his genetical character—the kind of genes and chromosomes that he inherits from his forebears. This tendency can be identified by a relatively simple laboratory investigation such as has been done in other countries but for which we have had very little opportunity.
The greater and more urgent need is for more people to become involved in a kind of service that should be encouraged by Bills such as this. The most important person is the psychiatrist. Senator Horgan mentioned the limitations of the psychiatric service in Mountjoy. Of course, this is only one instance because there are similar limitations all over the country. Many more people are required in this area. The Department of Health are the Department most directly involved in this and they have realised during the past few years that they are involved in a very difficult situation not only in the psychiatric service in hospitals but also in supplying psychiatrists in other directions.
I should like to compliment the Minister for Health on having sanctioned a new training scheme for psychiatrists. All three medical schools in this city are co-operating in that scheme. The scheme has been in operation now for about a year and a half and the results are eminently satisfactory. However, it will have to produce more people before the Minister can make a success of the kind of arrangement which is envisaged in the rehabilitation section of this Bill.
What is said about psychiatrists applies with at least equal force to the ancillary workers in this area. A number of these have been mentioned already, for instance, those who are involved in the process of looking after cases on probation and those who are dealing with rehabilitation in the kind of institution as is envisaged by the Minister. These people are even less available in this country than fully trained medical psychiatrists and there are fewer opportunities for training them. There are one or two institutions where this training is given but I would like to suggest to the Minister for Justice that he will not be able to go very far along the road on which he has set himself until his colleague in the Department of Health can get a certain amount done in the training of these workers.
I agree with what has been said here about the limitations but I take it that this legislation is something that the Minister must have immediately in order to correct a certain situation but I hope that this will not preclude him from doing more and that he will not be inclined to sit back and say that he has done so much because, in fact, he has done very little in this Bill towards meeting what is a very great need.
I welcome this Bill. We must take the Bill in conjunction with the facts and circumstances as they occur. To begin with, most young persons are not sent to prison for a first offence by any district justice. It is more likely to be a third or fourth offence for which they are sentenced. Therefore, we should not waste too much time or money on segregating them when they are sent on remand. The Bill in all its features is worthy of our support. It segregates young people up to 19 years of age and some of those between 19 and 21 years of age. Those between 19 and 21 years of age who find themselves in prison, as many of us know from experience of them, have usually been offending against the law from the time they were about 15 years of age and by the time they are about 19 years of age they are really hardened criminals and are not fit to associate in any way with those who have offended only usually two, three or four times, which is the minimum limit when the district justice as a rule sends young people to prison.
The suggestion that Shanganagh would be used only as an overflow on the one hand from St. Patrick's is scarcely fair to the Minister. He has set out very fully its purpose. The intention is to have training schools there and to have training shops where young boys can learn trades or improve their existing trades because many of those young boys are already apprentices in various trades and it would be desirable that they keep up their trades during their periods in prison. It is not quite fair to the Minister, either, to suggest on the other hand that the further overflow from St. Patrick's would be sent to prison at the discretion of the Minister. In so far as I am aware it always has been the law that a person can be sent from St. Patrick's to Mountjoy only if the visiting committee certifies to the Department that such young person is incorrigible or only if they certify that the presence of such person in St. Patrick's is having a grave deleterious effect on the other inmates of St. Patrick's.
It is unlikely, of course, that there will be a reduction in the numbers in St. Patrick's having regard to the general world wide trends. The Minister has expressed his intention that if there should be an increase he would make provision for it by extending into the building which is now adjoining it. I have had experience of putting young people of that nature under the care of a psychiatrist but the success, I must say, has been rather doubtful. It has led me to the conclusion that psychiatry has not developed to a very advanced stage. I have advised parents to send children to psychiatrists but by and large I do not think psychiatrists alone are the answer.
I am sorry, I cannot hear the Senator.
I said that psychiatrists alone are not the answer. I have advised parents of young offenders to put them under the care of psychiatrists. They have done so at their own expense, they have left them under the care of psychiatrists for a period of from 12 months to two years and at the end of that period I could notice very little improvement. Their criminal tendencies were still there, so much so that I was forced to the conclusion, much against my will, that it was money wasted and that we are, when dealing with criminals, stressing too much this aspect of psychiatry. There is something much more fundamental in it. I agree the first thing you have got to do with a young criminal is to try to make him master of himself, to try to make him control himself. No psychiatrist on his own will do that. You will only do this in open institutions and it would be much more satisfactory if the Minister took Shanganagh as just one item instead of having a number of them at this stage. He should develop that to see what good work can be done, to see how it should be expanded, to experiment with it to the best advantage and to use the knowledge gained from it for the purpose of opening a number of other centres. It would be premature to start off with a number of such centres. While many Senators think that this Bill has not gone far enough, I feel it has gone to the limit to which the Minister could reasonably go pending further experiments and I welcome it wholeheartedly.
I would like to say at the outset that the debate in this House, like the debate in the Dáil, showed in general that there was a widespread measure of agreement with the provisions of the Bill although, of course, several Senators made it clear they felt the Bill should perhaps go further. However, I would like to point out straight away in connection with prison matters or penology the legislation itself is not the most important factor. What really matters is how the people who are in charge of our prisons and their individual officers approach their job of dealing with prisoners. You could legislate until you were blue in the face and I myself or any other Minister for Justice could come into the Oireachtas two or three times a year with Bills proposing to improve in some way our legislation relating to prisons but all that work would go for naught if, in fact, the attitudes of our prison staff were not what they should be.
I am very happy to say that the attitudes of our prison staff are highly commendable in every respect. Not-withstanding the undoubted difficulties they encounter from time to time they acquit themselves remarkably well and give of themselves in a most generous fashion to assist those who are under their care. I went to some lengths in the Dáil to try to play down the alleged punitive content of imprisonment and I think it is no harm that I should make some reference to this again. As Senator Keery pointed out, when he quoted my reply to the Second Reading debate in the Dáil, I regard the punitive element in imprisonment as very much a subsidiary one, so subsidiary that it exists only because there is inevitably in the nature of things a punitive element in detention. While you have a detention system here, such as exists in practically every country in the world, there must, of necessity, be that punitive element but undoubtedly it takes second place. That is my approach, my Department's approach, and the prison officers' approach to this matter.
Senator Keery, in particular, was anxious about this aspect of it and he expressed the hope that corporal punishment would form no part of the regime in Shanganagh. He can rest assured about that because not alone does it not enter into the scheme of things in Shanganagh but, in fact, it has not been used in any of our penal institutions for upwards of 50 years and as far as I am concerned it will never be used in any penal institution.
Perhaps that line of thought brings me on to Senator Ó Maoláin's contribution. I do not think he will be offended if I say that his thinking is not in accordance with the most advanced thought in the world today on this subject. That does not invalidate his views. I agree with Senator Ó Maoláin that it is possible, and happens very often nowadays, that the psychological aspect of things is overplayed in relation to crime and punishment. I do not want to denigrate it. I wish to express appreciation of the sort of work which is done by psychologists and psychiatrists in this field. I appreciate the great necessity for much more work of that kind, but it can be exaggerated. I got that impression having listened to the long and very valuable speech of Deputy Dr. Noel Browne who is, as the House knows, a noted psychiatrist. He spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill in the Dáil and one got the feeling that he had become completely immersed in his own particular science, that it had unduly coloured his approach to the various problems arising in connection with crime and punishment and that it was difficult for him to take an objective view. He was looking at the problems exclusively from the point of view of the inner workings of the mind of an offender. One must take society's point of view as well. One must try to look at things reasonably objectively. It is perhaps exaggerating the psychological approach to look at things as Deputy Dr. Browne does. I do not wish to denigrate his anxiety about these matters or his undoubted ability. One must look at things a little more broadly.
Many of the points made were specific ones with regard to particular sections of the Bill and they might be more appropriately dealt with on the Committee Stage. I cannot for that reason undertake to deal with all of them now, but there were a few points to which I particularly wish to refer. The first point is that made by Senator O'Higgins on section 7. He drew my attention to the fact that under the section as it stands it would be legally possible for me as Minister to transfer from St. Patrick's to prison, on the grounds of overcrowding, somebody over 16 years of age. As the law stands at present it is not possible to send persons under 17 years of age to prison unless they are certified to be too unruly to be kept in a place of detention provided under the Children Acts. I do not wish to seek that power. I do not think it is desirable. Accordingly, I propose between now and the Committee Stage to put down an amendment to meet the Senator's point which I think is a valid one.
With regard to the question raised by Senator O'Higgins and other Senators on section 7 as to who precisely would be selected if and when it was necessary on the grounds of overcrowding to transfer some detainees from St. Patrick's to prison, I would be guided, as any Minister for Justice would be guided, by the views of the Visiting Committee on the kinds of detainees who should be transferred. I would like to consult them in the first place about the overcrowding. I would listen to the advice of the committee and I imagine it would be to transfer the more difficult and older detainees. Naturally I, or any other Minister, would do that. One would not propose to transfer the younger or less troublesome people.
Senator O'Higgins also made the suggestion, although I do not think he made it too seriously, that under section 2 as it stands it would be possible for the Minister for Justice to transfer persons from prison or from St. Patrick's to military custody. It is just not possible under section 2 to do that. The very opposite is the case because section 2 refers to the provision of places other than prisons and says that such transfers must be for the purpose of promoting the rehabilitation of offenders. The subsequent section provides that the regulations to be made for institutions to be set up under section 2 will be made by the Minister for Justice and the persons detained in institutions established under section 2 will be at all times under the ultimate custody of the Minister for Justice. If there was to be any question of military custody naturally the Minister for Defence would be the custodian and the regulations would have to be made by him and the various references would have to be to him rather than to the Minister for Justice.
A number of Senators made the point—which at first sight has something to recommend it—that we should seek to divide the offenders into various categories and to have separate institutions for all these different categories. In theory that is all very well. There are two practical difficulties. The first one is the financial one. The second one is equally important, or perhaps more important. We have the difficulty—if this is a difficulty—that our prison population is so small that if we were to divide offenders, as perhaps they ought to be divided in theory, into juveniles, those in the 19 to 21 age group, young adults of 21-25 years, recidivists, first offenders, those who are disturbed, those who are intellectually and socially inadequate, those who are aggressive and so on, you would find in practice that you would have only a small number coming into each of those categories.
Even if we could afford to do it, it would be very unwise from the psychological point of view to establish institutions for such small numbers of similar people. Far more benefit can be obtained for offenders if they are not divided up into tiny groups but left in reasonable numbers to mix with reasonably differing types of persons.
A lot of play was made of the alleged overcrowding in St. Patrick's Institution. Although it has been full in the sense that every available cell, or nearly every available cell, had an occupant, we must look elsewhere to see what overcrowding actually is in a prison. To do this I draw the House's attention to the fact that in Britain in 1968, some 6,500 prisoners were sleeping in cells either in twos or threes. There is no instance in any institution here of more than one person occupying a cell unless, for medical reasons or in other special circumstances, it is desirable that he should not be in a single cell. In that event, the prison rules prescribe that not fewer than three prisoners may be associated in the one cell. Apart from those cases, there is no instance in St. Patrick's or any other of our institutions of more than one offender being confined in the same cell.
America and France have overcrowding problems also. Admittedly, the prison population in these countries is immensely larger than ours and their problems are far more severe and they have made many advances in penology, but the fact is that rehabilitation is bound to be difficult in these conditions. There is an interesting article in the Irish Times for 1st June in which James Bennett, who served as Director of Federal Prisons in the US for 27 years, gave the US Congress a hard-headed, practical, down-to-earth appraisal of proposals for preventive detention there. He was talking to a Senate sub-committee. I do not propose to read the article in full but Senators who are interested would do well to read there the description of American prisons from this man who, after 27 years, has more experience of running prisons than anybody else. Suffice it to say that the heading, “American Jails Described as Madhouses”, is a fair indication of the content of the article.
I suppose it is only natural, because this is called the Prisons Bill and because it is about prisons, that most of the talk here should have been about prisons, but I regard prisons as the less important of the two methods of trying to rehabilitate offenders. Institutionalisation, no matter what form it takes and no matter how good the institutions, will never benefit most of the people who are committed to them——
——because the very nature of detention is such that, it seems to me, it must necessarily deprive a person of a lot of the dignity and self-respect a person must have if he is to take his proper place in society. The aspect of things I should like in my time as Minister for Justice to concentrate most on is the non-institutional approach to the treatment of offenders. Undoubtedly we have been lagging behind very much in this respect. Perhaps we may not have realised that the non-institutional treatment of offenders is not alone of greater benefit to the individuals concerned than putting them into a prison or other institutions, no matter how elaborate they are, but it is also—and this may perhaps appeal to the more practically minded in the House—likely to be a far more economical way of dealing with the problem. For instance, one probation officer or one welfare officer may deal with 30, 40 or 50 individual cases in a year. The only real cost to the taxpayer of dealing with those cases in a year is that man's salary. Compare that with the cost of confining those 30, 40 or 50 people in an institution for even a short period, remembering that a well qualified, interested probation officer or welfare officer will undoubtedly have far greater success in rehabilitating those people under his care than incarceration in some institution or another, no matter how advanced it is, could ever hope to achieve.
Society benefits by non-institutional care. The individual benefits. Society also saves money. I should like as far as I can to transfer the treatment of offenders to treatment outside institutions. A detailed investigation was made with regard to the staff that would be necessary for probation and after-care service throughout the country. My present proposals are as follows: attached to the juvenile courts in Dublin we would have ten officers, which is five extra; attached to the adult courts in Dublin, three officers, which is two extra; in the various regional centres we would have eight officers, which is eight extra; attached to St. Patrick's we would have two, one extra; attached to Shanganagh we would have one officer, one extra; and attached to Mountjoy, two officers, one extra—giving a total of 26 officers, which is 18 extra. In addition, we would have three new senior officer posts.
I said in the Dáil, and I shall repeat it here, that if we find that that number, all of whom will be appointed by 1971, is inadequate I shall not hesitate to appoint more because I feel they are the people who will solve, in so far as anyone can, our problems of crime and punishment and who will do it a lot more efficiently and at much smaller cost to the community.
I am glad to be able to tell the Seanad that a psychologist has now been invited to accept an appointment by the Civil Service Commissioners and I hope he will be in a position to take up full-time duty in the city of Dublin and work particularly for the benefit of the young people detained in Shanganagh and St. Patrick's within a month or so.
In addition, I am anxious that those persons who are detained in the various prisons and other institutions in Dublin should have the benefit of the treatment and advice to be provided under the direction of the Director of Forensic Psychiatry whom the Dublin Health Authority propose to appoint very shortly to fill a much felt need. I am not certain that the appointment of a full-time psychiatrist in any prison or prisons in this country would be really a wise move. I think that our prison population is too small and that it is much more satisfactory, from everybody's point of view, not least the prisoner's, that he should be treated, if he has to be treated outside the prison, by appropriate people at an outpatient clinic or in a mental hospital where that is necessary.
I am anxious, when these probation and welfare officers are appointed, particularly in provincial areas, that the many societies of voluntary workers who at present try as best they can to carry on probation and welfare services will co-operate with them and work under their direction because I feel that voluntary workers will always work much more effectively if they are under the direction and control of a professional who is specifically trained in this sort of work.
I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to the various voluntary societies throughout the entire country who have done so much to help young people particularly, inside and outside of prison, and who, over a long period of years, have been very generous with their time and with their talents in this important social work. I should like to express the hope that perhaps even more people, now that things will be organised on a more professional basis, will be prepared to volunteer to undertake this work.
A number of Senators complained about the delay in publishing the Prison Reports. I agree that there was undoubtedly some delay in regard to the 1967 and the 1968 reports but I am glad to say that the 1969 report is now printed and will, in fact, be published next week, which is good going considering that the 1967 and 1968 reports only came out last week.
I hope I have dealt with most of the points that were raised. If any further information is required I will give it on the Committee Stage.