Inspector of Prisons Reports: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann notes the recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons and places of detention for the year 2003-04; and regrets how few of the recommendations made by him in his first annual report for 2002-03 have been implemented.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, to the House. Perhaps there will be more tranquility than if other Ministers had come in here. Sometimes the Minister of State has a better effect on me than others.

I tabled this motion because an issue that concerns me about the Houses of the Oireachtas is that we frequently commission reports which, when published, enable us for some reason to think we have done something. However, we have done nothing unless we look at the recommendations made in the report and discuss them. This is the reason I was very disappointed that last year the report by the Inspector of Prisons was not discussed. I was determined this year when the second report was published that it would be discussed here. I had similar trouble with the reports of the Inspector of Mental Institutions. It took me a couple of years to get them discussed. They had never been discussed in the Houses of the Oireachtas although they have been published for decades. It is important that we look at these reports.

I shall concentrate mainly on the recommendations made by the inspector. It is well to take the two reports together because the third recommendation of the 2003-04 report by Mr. Justice Kinlen is that there should be implementation of the recommendations in his first report or an explanation given as to why they are not being implemented. If one looks at the first report it is clear that little of it has been implemented. While I am interested in the amendment tabled by the Government it is not relevant to most of the recommendations. The first and more important recommendation the inspector would like to have implemented is that his position should be made statutory and independent. This is not a new idea by Mr. Justice Kinlen as it was suggested by the Whitaker report in 1985 that we should have an inspector of prisons and that person should be appointed on a statutory basis and independent. According to the inspector this can be provided for in a schedule to any Finance Bill and does not have to wait for a prisons Bill, although a prisons Bill has been published recently and this provision has not been included.

An independent budget could be provided each year by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in consultation with the Minister for Finance. Mr. Justice Kinlen said it is urgent that this should happen. I agree with that recommendation. The more one reads through the reports the more one sees the difficulties Mr. Justice Kinlen had in regard to staff, office equipment and his relationship with the prisons inspectorate within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Page 35 of the first annual report of the inspector of prisons and places of detention for the year 2002-03 reads:

The Prison Service and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have been slow to provide any information to the Inspectorate. The fact that they wanted me to take six months off to read myself into the job and wanted me to go on a tour of Western Australia and possibly New Zealand shows their peculiar mindset. While many interpretations will be put on these offers, I took them as meaning that I was not to do any real work.

He pointed out to them that he had already been called to the Western Australian Bar so that he had experience there and felt no need to go and could read himself into his brief in a much shorter period than six months. Also he has problems in that various civil servants decided what was appropriate for him to do. This got to such a pitch at one stage that he had to get a freedom of information order to find out what was in a memo that he considered was relevant to him between one civil servant and another within the Prison Service. That cannot be considered a satisfactory way for any system to operate and the sooner it is changed the better.

When the Council of Europe committee on the prevention of torture or inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment came here a few years ago it was told we hoped to have a prisons service Bill enacted during 2000. While Mr. Justice Kinlen was appointed inspector in April 2000 nothing has happened in the way of bringing forward this legislation. This is one of the most urgent issues that should be provided for in the prisons Bill.

An important issue in the reports is that Mr. Justice Kinlen keeps asking whether the taxpayer is getting adequate value for money considering that it costs over €50,000 per year to keep a person imprisoned. A huge amount of the money appears to be spent on administration. When we get down to the coalface there are other difficulties regarding remuneration or there are no people employed who could provide some of the services that are so badly needed.

The inspector was also told it was not appropriate for him to have anything to say about the prison overtime bill for prison warders or the dispute taking place with the Minister. One wonders what his role was given that he was effectively ruled out of dealing with these issues.

Another important recommendation is in regard to the probation and welfare service. It has to deal with far more than prisons as it has to deal with family court cases. It is grossly understaffed. I am repeatedly told by those working in the service that they are stretched beyond all limits. The position in regard to the responsibility of the Department of Health and Children for people with psychiatric illness is odd given that there are many reports telling us how many people in the prisons are in need of psychiatric treatment. As the Minister put it in a report, sometimes he is dealing with the mad and the sad rather than the bad. While I welcome any improvement made in the Central Mental Hospital, the Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill is frightening legislation which provides care or treatment for prisoners who may be transferred as patients to a psychiatric institution. I regret that it has gone through this House in such a condition.

Some effort has been made on other very serious health issues. For example, Mr. Justice Kinlen pointed out that a fire engineer for the Prison Service should be appointed forthwith. He succeeded in getting someone from the Dublin Fire Service to look at how a fire would be dealt with in Mountjoy Prison where frequently there is only one stairwell and where prisoners could be in great danger. I do not think he got to see the report that was sent to Prison Service and appears to have been totally within its kin but not available to him. However, officials in Mountjoy Prison appears to have taken an initiative and are making an effort to implement further provisions in regard to fire safety in these old buildings.

Arising from a suggestion by Mr. Justice Kinlen, the prisons Bill contains a provision that bail applications, pre-trial sessions and so on could be heard by video link, as in Northern Ireland, or by transferring the prisoners concerned to Cloverhill Prison where there is a court within the prison. That would save a great deal on overtime and I understand that provision will be implemented. On the radio at lunchtime it was stated that some interesting changes are being made to the prisons Bill which, I presume, will come before the House shortly. One of these is that an ancient piece of legislation which provides that a person could bring in their bedding and furniture is to be removed from the Statute Book. It is a great pity those in the holding cells in Mountjoy did not know this because they have only a couple of benches and were not meant for people to sleep in them at night.

At present people are sleeping overnight in holding cells and, when they are full, in the reception area sometimes on very thin mattresses. While I do not want to malign the prison staff by saying the mattresses are dirty, some people who were held there have told me so. The inspector has said they are very thin and that duvets are distributed when it is time for them to go to sleep. What a pity they did not know of the legislation permitting them to bring in their furniture and a bed, as it would have made their position much safer. At the same time, it is ridiculous that more than 100 cells in Mountjoy are closed because of a decision of the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he was cutting back on the amount of money being spent on prisons.

The inspector pointed out another problem. The visiting committees do not have up-to-date rulebooks. While some rules applying to prisons and visiting committees exist, they are not in use now. It would be useful for the visiting committees to have a booklet produced. He also suggested that the visiting committees should comprise people from the locale of the prison rather than people transferred hundreds of miles across the country. It is wrongly suggested that these are political appointees, allocated to prisons far from where they live so that they can collect expenses. I am quite sure that is a very wrong assessment. I understood it was to avoid members of the visiting committees knowing the prisoners. It is suggested that the prisoners should be held in prisons as close as possible to the area in which they live so that family arrangements can be maintained as much as possible.

We have a major illiteracy problem in our prisons, yet we have cutbacks in the area of teaching. Even worse, within St. Patrick's Institution, training programmes are no longer taking place, again because of cutbacks. This is despite the significant investment by FÁS and others and is a grave mistake.

I am told psychologists are being appointed and the Government amendment to the motion "welcomes the appointment of psychologists to Mountjoy Prison, Dóchas Centre and Portlaoise Prison". However, the inspector believes the Minister is sometimes misinformed regarding the appointment of psychologists. For example, he was told that Dóchas, the women's prison in Mountjoy, had no psychologist. When he went to the prison he was told it had a psychologist. It transpired that both stories were true as the psychologist only came from the male prison to the female prison for one day, which is a completely inadequate way to deal with people most of whom are in prison as a result of various psychological problems. Arbour Hill prison contains more than 100 sex offenders and has a treatment programme for only ten. It is of no value to the prisoners to become involved in a treatment programme, as they will get no remission of sentence for doing so. While it is said that prisoners will get one-to-one psychological help, it is not true. They leave the place in very much the same state as they arrived.

The taxpayer is not getting value for money and I agree with the inspector's view that an outside business agency should be asked to assess what can be done to improve the efficiency of the Prison Service.

Before I begin I would like to digress somewhat. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, on his spirited and very well placed defence of the OPW in the past 24 hours, which some people appreciate. While I would not have associated his party with a spirited defence of aspects of the public service, it is good to see. I say this from the heart. It is important that balance is provided when required and that people are not merely criticised.

When I first got involved with education for underprivileged and disadvantaged people in 1977, I discovered that 90% of the prison population came from easily identifiable areas covering approximately 5% of the area of the State. As well as the prison population coming from areas of serious underprivilege it is not without significance that the illiteracy levels in underprivileged areas is much higher than would be the case generally. The number of children with special learning needs is much higher in areas of underprivilege. When these factors taken together are applied to the points made by Senator Henry and considered in terms of the recommendations of the Inspector of Prisons a number of matters come to light.

I do not quite know what to make of the report of the Inspector of Prisons. Some very important matters, mentioned by Senator Henry, should be implemented immediately. I do not know what to make of a recommendation that a fax and Dictaphone machine be installed in the medical section of Arbour Hill prison. I sometimes lose the scale of it along the way. The recommendation that, except where it is not feasible for security reasons, Members of the Oireachtas should have access to visiting prisons is a very good idea. It is important for us to know what we are talking about when discussing these matters and this recommendation could be easily implemented. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform always resists such recommendations and the last thing it ever wants is to have additional politicians poking their noses into its private business. I have said this privately and publicly to Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform many times. We can be trusted to look around and see what is going on in the knowledge we will not come out with anything extra in our pockets. I ask that that recommendation be implemented.

The Judiciary and criminal lawyers should have the same facility and be invited to look around. Some members of the Judiciary have already said they would like to be in a position to understand prisons more clearly and some of them have done that. It would be very sensible for those three groups to visit prisons. I know there has been some conflict between the Inspector of Prisons, and the Department and the Minister, which is just politics and needs to run its course.

Somebody needs to consider these recommendations in the way Senator Henry has done and determine which are important to address. I will focus on the matters I believe to be important. The psychological issue is crucial. The problem begins with a reading difficulty, which creates all sorts of frustrations. My background is in the world of small business. From a very young age it was drilled into me that poor people are generally honest people. However, because prisoners tend to come from underprivileged areas, there is a view that people from inner city underprivileged areas are not to be trusted in some way. We should be aware that the opposite is the case in general. We must realise that people who live in the underprivileged areas, from which many of our prisons come, live in fear of their lives much of the time.

The level of recidivism among Irish prisoners is huge and indicates that imprisonment is not working. While I know this argument has been used many times and I do not want it to sound like cant, I do not see why people cannot serve an apprenticeship while in prison. Given the cost of keeping a prisoner in jail for a year, if we proposed putting the same amount into additional facilities, which I will mention shortly, it would make a difference. We should have a pyramid of issues that we should consider. On the first step would be the question of literacy, which the inspector has considered and which every report on prisons ever published has mentioned. While I know some of them are involved at the moment, what would it cost to appoint a small number of adult literacy educators on a structured and full-time basis and see whether it works?

We need to consider skills training for prisoners. I do not see why people cannot serve an apprenticeship while in prison. Why could they not do that and learn something? When such people came out of prison, they could actually work for themselves. They would not be looking for a job as they could do work. It is appalling and I wish the Minister of State agreed with this point. For the Inspector of Prisons to say that the prison library should be open more often than at weekends is terrible. The argument may be that there is little demand, but while it is not available, there will be little demand. One follows on from the other and encourages people.

A certain type of prisoner will use a facility like the Open University, and such a prisoner should be facilitated in every way possible. There is also the question of games training. There are pitches for games and so on. I know from 20 years of teaching and from a life spent dealing with people, that everyone has a skill of some description. If such a skill was discovered, it could make all the difference in the world. If an artistic skill or skill at games was discovered in a prisoner to be used in life outside prison, it would create a sense of confidence and success which might pull people away from recidivism.

Senator Henry made a point about family support for prisoners. They should be reassured that there is some level of counselling support for their families and their children. The Inspector of Prisons spoke about having access to facilities where the prisoners can meet their children in some sort of respectable area if they are visiting. That can be difficult at times due to security problems.

The transition period has to be dealt with very sensibly. The Prison Service should be allowed to talk to the public. Ordinary people do not understand the importance of day release. They think it is something that should not be done and never give a moment's thought to the impact of having someone locked up for a number of years who is suddenly let out to fend for himself. Day release is an important part in the transition period from prison to the world outside. It is as important for us as it is to the prisoner.

I am happy to second the motion. I ask that someone take a serious look at the prison inspector's report. If there are things with which some people do not agree, let them say so, but let us establish an inspectorate and put in place the significant recommendations in the reports.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Seanad Éireann" and substitute the following:

"—supports the proposals of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to replace Mountjoy Prison with a new state-of-the-art prison complex;

—supports the proposals of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to provide new modern prison facilities to replace Cork Prison and Fort Mitchel Place of Detention;

—supports the Minister's proposals in the Prisons Bill 2005 to provide a statutory basis for the escorting of prisoners to and from prisons by persons other than prison officers and for the holding of pre-trial hearings through video conferencing;

—welcomes the proposals of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to update and modernise the rules for the government of prisons and his proposal to include in those rules statutory provision for the inspector of prisons and places of detention;

—supports the proposals of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to bring about greater cost efficiency in the management and operation of the prison system;

—welcomes the Minister's decision to establish a small working group involving departmental and probation and welfare service officials to build on existing work including the expert group report and the value for money audit of the service and to identify;

—the type of service that may be required in the future;

—their relative priority;

—the resource implications and different methods of providing the services;

—the research and evaluation available or required to determine the effectiveness of options;

—welcomes the appointment of psychologists to Mountjoy Prison, Dóchas Centre and Portlaoise Prison; and

—notes that the Minister for Health and Children is due to open in the Central Mental Hospital, in the near future, a 15 bed male unit to cater for prisoners with psychiatric illnesses."

I commend the amendment to the motion to the House. I welcome this opportunity to address the House on behalf of the Minister, Deputy McDowell, on the issues raised by the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen, in his annual reports which have been published by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Mr. Justice Kinlen was formally appointed to the post of Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention for a five-year term with effect from 24 April 2002, following his retirement from the High Court Bench. The third annual report of the inspector for the year 2004-05 has been submitted to the Minister. The Irish version has just been finalised and both language versions should be available in the coming days on the website of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

One of the recommendations in the third report is the privatisation of a prison on a trial basis. If it proves successful, the inspector recommends that all prisons, both public and private, should compete for contracts every five years. It would be interesting to hear the views of Senators on this recommendation. The Minister has presented a Bill to this House which would allow the outsourcing of prisoner escort services if prison officers do not agree to the proposals for organisational change which were negotiated and recommended by the executive of the Prison Officers Association. However, I am not sure if the Minister has contemplated going further and outsourcing the operation of an entire prison.

The Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention has made a considerable number of recommendations in his reports aimed at improving prison services and conditions. The inspector is not alone in being concerned about living conditions for prisoners in our older prisons and about the shortcomings in prisoner care services and programmes. These are matters which were of concern to the Minister and the prisons authority interim board even prior to the publication of the inspector's reports. The inspector has referred specifically to the need to replace Mountjoy and Portlaoise prisons in his second annual report and has similarly expressed the need to replace Cork Prison in his report on his visit to that institution.

It is not possible to implement such recommendations overnight but significant progress is being made in each case. The first priority is to replace Mountjoy Prison. Significant progress is being made in implementing this particular recommendation of the inspector as it is not acceptable that prisoners have to continue to slop out every morning. Action must be taken. It is quite clear that the existing Mountjoy Prison cannot be properly refurbished. It was estimated that to redevelop the existing site would cost over €400 million, take seven years to complete and cause very significant operational problems. That is not a viable option and it was certainly not what was recommended by the inspector. The Minister is to be commended for having the vision and courage to tackle this problem and I hope that he will get the support of this House for the action he is taking.

The new site purchased at Thornton is 150 acres in size, compared with roughly 20 acres at the Mountjoy site, giving considerable scope for developing humane state-of-the-art facilities in an uncrowded environment for the benefit of the prisoners and staff. Work should begin in the near future on the provision of new prisoner accommodation at Portlaoise Prison as the next phase of redevelopment is carried out. Planning work is being advanced to develop a new prison for the Munster region and allow the closure of Cork Prison, which was also recommended by the inspector. These are major undertakings involving replacement of almost 40% of the entire prison estate. They will take a number of years to complete but they will proceed as quickly as possible.

The inspector's recommendations are being implemented on an ongoing basis as circumstances and resources allow. This is particularly the case for the more straightforward recommendations such as the appointment of additional psychologists, improvements to prison accommodation, provision of safety and other equipment, improvements in record keeping and measures to frustrate the efforts of people who seek to make illicit drugs available to prisoners. For instance, the shortage of psychologists as identified by the inspector has been addressed by the recruitment of six additional psychologists to improve services to Mountjoy, Dóchas, St. Patrick's, Cloverhill, Midlands and Cork prisons. It is planned to hold another recruitment competition for clinical, forensic and counselling psychologists later this year.

Apart from his concerns about prison conditions, the inspector also made reference to the need for new prisons legislation. In particular, he recommended in his annual report that his office be established on a statutory basis. The question of a comprehensive new Bill covering all matters relating to prisons, including the establishment of the prisons inspectorate on a statutory basis, is included in the Department's legislative work programme. However, it will be some time before such comprehensive legislation will be completed, as it will involve the repeal and replacement of 17 Acts going back as far as 1826. Furthermore, parliamentary time is very limited ——

That is not the case in this House. We are very good at dealing with legislation and we would be quite happy to accommodate the Minister of State tomorrow.

That is very good. Parliamentary time is very limited and the Minister has to focus on priority issues such as the Garda Síochána Bill and the Criminal Justice Bill. Nevertheless, the Minister has decided to provide a more immediate statutory framework for the work of the Inspector of Prisons by means of the prison rules. New draft rules for the government of prisons have now been finalised and are available on the website of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Copies have been made available to Senators.

On a point of order, can the Minister of State tell me where they have been made available? I checked with two colleagues and we have not seen them. The Minister of State should not make such assertions if they are not correct.

The Senators will find them in their pigeon holes this evening.

Come on.

That is a classic.

Are they there now?

Perhaps they are. I do not know. They were to be delivered.

They will be, not they have been. We must have accuracy.

The pigeons will bring them.

The difficulty highlighted by the inspector was that on the two nights of 18 December 2003 and 4 January 2004 there was significant overcrowding in the holding cells in Mountjoy Prison due to a high number of committals from the courts. The situation was quickly alleviated by the re-opening of a portion of the A wing of a prison which continues to be in use.

Following the rejection by ballot of the programme for organisational change, it has been very difficult to set aside time for staff training and development as the replacement of staff continues to occur on an overtime basis. Mandatory training on breathing apparatus and control and restraint modules has, however, been given priority.

I share the inspector's concerns about the committal to prison of people with psychiatric illnesses and agree that an effective mechanism to divert such people from the criminal justice system to psychiatric care services is most desirable. The matter is being addressed at executive level in the context of the implementation of the report on the structure and organisation of prison health care services. The Government established a special committee to draw up a service level agreement on the admission of mentally ill prisoners to the Central Mental Hospital and their treatment there. The committee comprises representatives of the Department of Health and Children, the Irish Prison Service, the HSE, east coast area, and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I have been advised by the Department of Health and Children that the implementation of phase 1 of the service level agreement has already commenced with the allocation to the Central Mental Hospital of additional revenue funding of €1 million and capital funding of €1 million in 2004. I am pleased to note that a 15-bed, male unit for the treatment of prisoners with psychiatric illnesses is due to be opened at the hospital in the near future while the recruitment of an additional 33 staff is currently underway.

In December 2004, the Government decided, in principle and subject to further study, that a new central mental hospital would be developed on the site acquired for the new Mountjoy Prison replacement complex at Thornton, County Dublin. I emphasise that the new central mental hospital will be a health facility providing a therapeutic forensic psychiatric service to the highest international standards in a state-of-the-art building. The hospital will remain under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children and will be owned and managed by the Health Service Executive. The Tánaiste has asked her officials to examine the option of providing a separate governance structure for the hospital by way of its own board to reflect its importance as a national, tertiary psychiatric service. It is intended to develop the hospital independently of the prison complex to replace Mountjoy Prison by means of a separate capital development project managed and directed by the Health Service Executive.

Since taking office, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has placed a priority on the proper care and management of vulnerable prisoners with mental disabilities. He has been especially concerned to ensure the replacement of the existing padded cells used in our closed prison institutions with a more humane regime providing for better ventilation and lighting, diversion for prisoners and better monitoring by prison staff. Over the past two years, the Irish Prison Service has developed two new designs for such prisoners. These are close supervision cells and safety observation cells. The main additional features of the cells are new bed installations, new doors with better observation facilities, cell light as close to natural daylight as possible, a cell call system, televisions and in-cell sanitation. Special clothing for prisoners in such cells has been introduced. New guidelines have been issued to ensure the cells are used under strict supervision and only as a last resort. The changes will help greatly to meet the needs and respect the dignity and self-respect of prisoners in a manner consistent with their safety. The new cells were introduced to Cloverhill Prison in 2004 and will be introduced on a phased basis at the other closed prisons over the next 12 months at a cost of approximately €3 million.

The inspector has also made recommendations in his annual reports on the probation and welfare service. The Minister established recently a small working group involving departmental and Probation and Welfare Service officials to build on existing work, including the expert group report on the Probation and Welfare Service and the value-for-money audit of the service by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The group will identify the type of service which may be required in future, relative priorities, resource implications, different methods of providing the services and the research and evaluation available or required to determine the effectiveness of various options.

The inspector raised concerns about the independence of prison chaplains which, I assure the House, there is no question of diluting. While the head chaplain was offered an office at Irish Prison Service headquarters, the intention was to afford him the opportunity to have a greater influence on policy making at that level. There was certainly no question of seeking to compromise his influence as a chaplain.

There is already extensive use of video conferencing at Cloverhill Prison to accommodate prisoners due to appear at Cloverhill Courthouse. Officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Irish Prison Service participated in a committee headed by Ms Justice Susan Denham which published its report in January 2005. One of the main recommendations of the report was the establishment of a pilot programme by the Irish Prison Service and the Courts Service for the carrying out by video link of bail, remand and other pre-trial court applications involving prisoners. The Irish Prison Service is considering the recommendations in the report.

In addition, a building project involving the conversion of F block in Cloverhill to a set of video court booths is almost complete and is expected to be brought into use for legal visits and certain pre-trial court applications in October 2005. The Denham committee report also proposed draft legislation for the carrying out of bail, remand and other pre-trial applications over video link. In May 2005, the Minister presented the Prisons Bill 2005 to the Seanad and Senators will be aware that it contained provisions to give effect to the Denham committee's recommendations.

The inspector also referred to the existence of racism in the prison system. It is an unfortunate fact that racism is to be found in all walks of life and the Irish prison system is no more or less immune to such attitudes than any other aspect of Irish society or societies internationally. In recognition of this reality, the Irish Prison Service initiated independent research on racial and cultural awareness and communication in our prisons which was published in 2003. In keeping with the findings of the research the Irish Prison Service philosophy of treating all persons in its care with courtesy and respect, the service is reviewing its internal procedures for staff training and the processing of prisoner complaints. It is policy to investigate all complaints, train staff in expected behaviours and develop a supportive environment for vulnerable prisoners from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Efforts are made to meet and respect the spiritual and other needs, including special dietary needs, of non-national prisoners.

The inspector made a number of observations on the Irish Prison Service headquarters, including reference to the number of staff employed. There are significantly fewer headquarters staff in proportion to total staff in the Irish Prison Service than in national prison services in other jurisdictions. Statistics for prison service staffing indicate that Prison Service headquarters strength is low by international standards.

The inspector referred to co-operation from the Department. When senior officials met recently with the inspector to discuss what further measures could be adopted to facilitate the flow of information, it was agreed that more regular meetings on matters of mutual interest would be held. I hope the issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the inspector.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I commend the motion and congratulate Senator Henry on putting it to the House this evening. It would be better if the Government were to put its hands up and accept it as recommendations have been made but not acted on. Instead, the Government side has moved an amendment to the motion to support proposals of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on five counts.

The amendment invites the House to welcome the Minister's decision to establish another small working group, which is typical of the Government's record since it took office. Where we do not see proposals, we are invited to welcome a decision when no real decision has been made but for a decision to commission another working group report. It is Government by report. When an excellent report like that of Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen is produced, we see very little action by Government. Government action is lacking in many areas, one of which, certainly, is the Irish Prison Service.

I wonder when the recommendations which have been made will be placed on a statutory footing. An inspectorate of prisons was established for England and Wales in 1980 and for Scotland in 1981, but, as usual, we lag behind in this very important area. It is all very well having reports of this nature but it is the response of Government to the recommendations that will determine their effectiveness. To date, that response has been very disappointing. The Government has failed to respond adequately to the many excellent recommendations of Mr. Justice Kinlen.

Serious concerns have been expressed about systems put in place within the Prison Service to deal with mentally ill patients. This matter has been raised by Senator Henry, in particular, on numerous occasions. Last year two people took their own lives in Arbour Hill Prison within days of being returned to the prison following short stays at the Central Mental Hospital. A third man transferred from the hospital back to the prison also attempted to kill himself but was saved by prison staff. It is very disturbing to read in the report of instances such as this in our prisons.

I welcome the Minister of State's reference to the appointment of additional psychologists in the Prison Service to work with inmates on a one to one basis. It is a cause of concern that so many people in prison are in need of therapeutic intervention. The Prison Service has no option but to accommodate any person given a custodial sentence by the courts but a decision on the long-term suitability of prison vis-à-vis a mental health institution should be determined at an early stage.

According to Mr. Justice Kinlen, the closure of Shanganagh Castle in December 2002 was a retrograde step. It left Ireland as the only member state in the European Union with no open facility for juveniles. This facility was described as a jewel in the crown of the Prison Service. There is no alternative at present but for juveniles to mix with the harder core offenders in St. Patrick's Institution. The opportunity for rehabilitation offered by Shanganagh Castle is no longer available. According to the report, the juvenile branch of the penal system is hopelessly inadequate. I am anxious to know how it is proposed to deal with this inadequacy in the system for juveniles.

According to the Irish Human Rights Commission, the independence, functions and powers of the Inspector of Prisons should be accompanied by an independent and impartial complaints mechanism for prisoners. It also states that there should be a long-term strategy to address conditions of detention. The Irish Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned that the overall conditions of detention in much of the prison system are unsatisfactory and do not comply with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment standards and developing requirements under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The report catalogues many incidents and makes recommendations on which we should act. Some of the recommendations will not require many additional resources and I cannot understand why they are not being put into effect. As Senator Henry mentioned, when the judge was appointed he was told he could take a holiday for six months. It is evident that there is no willingness within the Department for him to do an effective job, which he is doing under dreadful conditions. This situation must be brought to an end. We must put an inspectorate in place on a statutory basis and give Mr. Justice Kinlen the additional resources he requires.

The situation in Limerick Prison is highlighted in the report. Staff morale there has deteriorated as a result of budgetary cutbacks and some of these cutbacks affect services for prisoners. As part of the cutbacks there are no visits for prisoners on Tuesdays along with a list of other changes which the report states are not geared towards improving the morale of staff or the services to prisoners.

Many of the recommendations in the report of the Inspector of Prisons should be acted on as a matter of urgency and should not be put on the long finger. Obviously some of the recommendations will require additional resources but others could be implemented overnight if the willingness was there.

The recommendation that the Department of Health and Children take responsibility for prisoners with psychiatric illnesses, personality disorders and other disabilities, to ensure the services and facilities that are available to the public in psychiatric hospitals or units are also available to prisoners, is one that should be acted upon as a matter of urgency in light of some details which I highlighted earlier.

Recommendation 6.3, that juveniles should not be mixed with adult prisoners, is a point which must be acted on without delay. Recommendation 6.6 states that all committals to prison should receive a physical medical examination by a doctor and that this practice should be implemented immediately. This could be implemented without the expenditure of much additional resources.

I call on the Minister to implement the recommendations. However, there does not appear to be a willingness on the part of the Department to do so. If that is the case, the Minister should put up his hands and state he will not implement them rather than codding people with proposals but doing damn all about it. I would have thought the Secretary General who has a deep interest in the penal system, as he worked in it, would want to have many of the recommendations implemented. I want to know why the recommendations have not yet been implemented.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, who has made his contribution to the debate. I join with other speakers in paying tribute to Senator Henry and her colleagues for seeking a debate on this important topic.

I remind Senator Cummins that the fact that we have an opportunity to discuss the issue is because the Minister of the day appointed an inspectorate in 2002.

Hear, hear.

That has led to these reports. It was a good initiative and obviously——

It is not sufficient to appoint an inspectorate unless there is a willingness to act on its recommendations.

——it will take time for the benefits of that to accrue.

I am also pleased to note the Minister of State's references to specific aspects of the first two reports on which the recommendations are already well in train. That is not to say there are not additional recommendations which we must accelerate in the interests of having a proper regulated Prison Service.

I was inclined to focus on the second report at the expense of the first but it contains some good recommendations. One of the recommendations related to Shanganagh Castle to which Senator Cummins referred. It was a prison which was closed because it was a dormitory facility. The inspector was impressed by its green open spaces which were considered conducive to the involvement of prisoners in rehabilitative activity, which is part of the purpose of the Prison Service. I highlight this point although the facilities at Shanganagh can no longer be used without major changes and a new building. When we build new prisons it is important to take into account that type of approach so that adequate facilities can be provided. We must avoid creating another concrete jungle such as exists at Mountjoy Prison which is antediluvian and must be replaced.

As a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights which visited Mountjoy Prison a year ago, I would welcome the implementation of the plans for Thornton to ensure the new prison there will have all the facilities necessary to ensure a well-regulated, rehabilitative environment that will have a positive effect on many of the inmates who will go through that facility.

Portlaoise Prison, which was also mentioned, will also come up for retention. Perhaps because of the security problem posed by many of the prisoners in Portlaoise Prison, it might not be as easy to have as much open space. Nonetheless, the effort should be made because, to some extent, we are in a different political climate in respect of paramilitaries. This should be recognised in changes we make to ensure that those who are imprisoned are afforded opportunities to enable themselves to participate fully in society and live meaningful and useful lives rather than spending much of their lives behind bars. It is a matter for them to avail of these opportunities and the State should not fail in providing them.

The report mentions drug addiction among prisoners. I noted recently that it is reckoned that only 2% of the population in Massachusetts ends up in difficulty with the law. The authorities in that state try to target that 2%. It is very much an ethnic issue in Massachusetts while in Ireland is often an issue associated with disadvantaged areas, as Senator O'Toole stated. We should deal with the issue through our community policing programme, which is part of an integrated approach to tackling crime. Prison represents the last step in this approach. When prison is required it means we may have failed to correct the activities of certain people such that they must, of necessity, pay their dues to society in prison.

I am informed that the authorities in Massachusetts stated 80% of the prison population in that state are either drug users or addicts. On visiting Mountjoy Prison, they were surprised at the level of drug use therein. I know there are difficulties associated with eradicating the problem. Undoubtedly, many members of the prison population are drug users. Drug use leads to much of the criminal activity in our communities. I am not sure how we should tackle the problem but a holistic approach is required to try to arrest the increase in the number of people using drugs and, as a consequence, finding themselves in prison.

The point is well made in the report that we should ensure prisoners are not unoccupied and that they are given useful and meaningful tasks to do. Work was referred to in the House. The annual cost of servicing each prisoner is such that there should be a payback. We exercise far too much discretion regarding what prisoners wish to do. There should be an onus on prisoners to work for a certain period of the week in productive employment to help meet the cost of their imprisonment.

It is good to note in the report that the morale of prison staff is quite high. I welcome this. My esteemed colleague Senator Cummins should note that one of the main recommendations of the report is that the inspectorate be established as a statutory and independent unit. This is now in train and a commitment has been made by the Minister to achieve this, which is to be welcomed.

A Senator referred to video linking for bail and pre-trial applications to court. It seems wasteful of prison officers' time and public moneys that people are transported long distances under guard to attend court given that we live in a new communications age in which video linking and conferencing is quite common and effective in the business world. Ways should be found to fully utilise this technology such that people would only end up in court during their trials, at which time it might be necessary for them to be present. This issue should be considered.

A recommendation of the first report is that juvenile prisoners should not be mixed with adult prisoners. I subscribe fully to this. I have seen evidence of people going to prison for relatively minor offences by comparison with other offences we hear about. As a consequence of their experience and the contacts they make in the prison system, they graduate to much more serious crime when released. This is a reflection on the system and therefore it is imperative that we use other ways of holding people to account for their crimes. Community service should be used more widely.

The restorative justice system, which operates in Tallaght and Nenagh according to my colleagues on the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, should be rolled out to other areas. I was in Canada recently and noted this system was used fairly extensively in the area I visited. The Canadians highly commended its effects, particularly among ethnic populations. It was found that offenders' having to appear before their own relatives to explain a crime they committed and the embarrassment caused to their families all served as a force to reintegrate those offenders into society and dissociate them from criminal activity. This is a far more effective approach than putting offenders in an institution such as a prison.

I support the recommendation in the report that Oireachtas Members should have the right to visit prisons. This was highlighted by Senator Henry. Oireachtas Members should not be allowed to arrive at the prison gates in a taxi whenever they want but they should be allowed visit one day per month.

Coolamber Manor, a rehabilitation unit on a 150-acre site in Longford, is a model that should be replicated, as recommended in the report. It provides vocational training and intensive counselling. If we take this course of action, we will reap the benefits.

I begin by quoting Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen's letter to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which comprises the introduction to the second annual report of the Inspector of Prisons: "I am quite certain that many senior officials will not like much of my proposed Bill [to make his position statutory] as it will offend their basic mantra about power, secrecy, control and security." For many people, this sums up the fundamental problem associated with running a prison system in Ireland, that is, the culture of power, secrecy, control and security which the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and successive Ministers from that Department have insistently defended.

The fundamental problem is that the Department, including the Minister, is affronted by the fact that somebody says it is not doing its job properly. It is extremely uncomfortable about the fact that somebody is allowed to consider what it is doing, cast a dispassionate eye over it and come to conclusions which, to the rest of us who read the report, are so obvious as to be similar to a poke in the eye to remind one of the problem.

Not all the recommendations in the report of the Inspector of Prisons require considerable effort to implement. When the inspector refers to the need to replace tiles in bathrooms or the fact that bedrooms look like they have not been painted in years, he is not referring to the need to make great efforts but to a failure of will. The report quotes the British Inspectorate of Prisons, which makes the very valid point that the traditional response of blaming the poor foot soldiers for everything is not the issue. It is a management issue concerning senior management in the Prison Service and is ultimately determined by the values that motivate Ministers with responsibility for justice. The humane rhetoric bandied about, particularly when there is a moment of embarrassment from the European committee on the prevention of torture, does not get away from the fact that we require prisoners to live in conditions which the Inspector of Prisons, two years in a row, has described as being nothing short of abysmal.

He has identified the fundamental problem as being the culture in which the prisons are run. Manifestly, a so-called independent Prison Service is still firmly under the thumb of a Department, which, as he said, still operates with the basic mantra of power, secrecy, control and security. That really is what it is about. When one reflects on that culture one can understand why Shanganagh Castle would be closed. Open prisons are not exactly part of the culture of power, secrecy, control and security. They are the antithesis of that. If there were empirical evidence to suggest that this culture was necessary to achieve some worthy objective, we could all be persuaded. However, the fundamental fact about prisons is that apart from protecting people from others who are dangerous, by keeping them locked up, they do not work. They do not deter or rehabilitate people. They usually end up with people being more mentally and psychiatrically ill when they leave than when they arrived. More people leave prison with drug problems than had them when they arrived. Prisons do not work; they are utterly hopeless.

One could write a profound PhD thesis about the way in which societies — Ireland among them, although not particularly worse than anywhere else — believe in prisons and need them. Governments of all hues demand prisons when everybody can prove that they do not work. Increasingly I believe that the purpose of prisons is not to deter those who might end up there, but rather those who would never end up there. The purpose of prisons is actually to put manners on the middle classes by frightening them with the prospect of what might happen to them if they do not behave. The people who are most frightened of prison never end up there because of the combination of advantage in life, education etc.

These two reports contain a wonderfully eloquent statement of the frustration of trying to deal with a Department which cannot adjust itself. Every time I talk about issues like this I am conscious of the reminiscences of my friend in the Labour Party, former Deputy Eithne FitzGerald, and her struggles with a particular Department, using the Freedom of Information Act. The Department resisted and resisted, just as it did in many other matters. Until some Minister gets to the stage of saying, "Let us start all this again", recognising that many of the things the Prison Service does are unnecessary, resulting in unwanted expenditure, wasted money, poor services and at the end of it all the public is not more secure, nothing will change. Prisons serve one purpose only, to keep people who are dangerous off the streets. If we accepted that, we could look at how many prison places are needed, which is probably a fraction of the number we have. We could use the resources saved to deal creatively with issues such as illiteracy and all of those matters.

It is extraordinary how little has been done. If Mr. Justice Kinlen keeps writing reports like this, his chances of getting a permanent contract with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will not only diminish, but will move into negative territory.

I, too, welcome the Minister of State to the House. Like previous speakers I would also like to know the recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention for 2003 and 2004. Members should note that this is but one of 17 such reports received by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform since the Inspector of Prisons, Mr. Justice Kinlen, was appointed. As Senator Ryan articulated, the issue of imprisonment is complex. It is an area that draws conflicting opinions and varying academic comment. Looking at the basics, the Council of Europe's annual penal statistics survey states that the Irish prison population rate is 78 per 100,000 inhabitants. This statistic shows that Ireland is well below the average European rate of 141 per 100,000 inhabitants. Even a basic statistic such as this can produce conflicting views. Does it mean there is less crime in this society than in others? Is the justice system more lenient? Are the detention rates lower? Are the conviction rates low, or even too low?

There are even conflicting views on the fundamental question of whether imprisonment is effective in reducing crime. For example, the former head of the New York prison system, Mr. Michael Jacobson, was in charge of that service when prison numbers fell, while at the same time crime also fell substantially. He urges community-based prevention and non-jail alternatives for some breaches of release conditions.

Hear, hear.

On the other hand, the director of criminal justice at Civitas in the UK has said that prison surveys reveal that the average prisoner commits approximately 140 crimes per year. Imprisonment prevents that crime, along with reassuring victims and the public in general that something is being done to tackle crime. The basic point is that criminal justice is a complex policy area. Imprisonment has provoked and continues to provoke charged debate across many modern societies and Ireland is no different in this regard. In 2002 the Government made ambitious and appropriate commitments as regards prisons in Ireland and their operations. I am satisfied that these provisions relate closely to the substance of Mr. Justice Kinlen's 15 recommendations.

These refer, in the main, to the demolition of certain prisons, inspections, visits, probation staff, rehabilitation, publication of rules, literacy and administration. The Minister of State has clearly articulated that we live in a time of decision and change as regards the Prison Service and that this period should be positive and constructive. The objective is to modernise the fabric of the Prison Service, for conditions to improve greatly and time will be needed. It is an objective to which the Government and the Minister are committed. Mr. Justice Kinlen's report, of course, is part of that same process. It is a substantial document that deals with a broad range of issues.

Measures are already under way to address the most significant concerns as regards the conditions in prisons and places of detention. The Minister has set down two principal objectives in this area, namely, replacement of older prison accommodation, in particular at Mountjoy, Portlaoise and Cork and control of the spiralling prison overtime costs which absorb vast amounts of money. The House will be aware that the resources saved could be used more productively in providing for improved services for prisoners. Significant progress is being made as regards the replacement of Mountjoy and Portlaoise prisons as recommended in the report. Furthermore, good progress is being made on the development of a new prison on Spike Island to replace Cork Prison.

We must acknowledge that these are major undertakings, which together account for the replacement of almost 40% of the entire prison estate. Notwithstanding the intentions of the Independent group's motion, we must accept that this process will take a number of years.

With regard to overtime payments, we must commend the improvements which have taken place in making more of the prison Vote available to prison services. The shortage of psychologists, as identified by Mr. Justice Kinlen, has been addressed by the recruitment of six additional psychologists to improve services. This is but one example of resources being directed. A further new psychologist took up duty last month and another recruitment competition for clinical, forensic and counselling psychologists is planned later this year.

With regard to a comprehensive new Act covering all matters relating to prisons, the Minister has indicated it is unavoidable that it will be some time before such comprehensive legislation is completed. Mr. Justice Kinlen referred to the provision of a booklet on prison rules. I commend the Minister on his decision to replace the 50 year old prison rules and welcome the publication today of new draft rules.

I have set out the complexity of the challenge facing us regarding the prison sector. The Government has made ambitious commitments and is making good progress. On the specifics of the second report of the Inspector of Prisons, although the size of the task must not be underplayed, nor should the Minister's dedication to address the key issues of prisoners' conditions and the need to free up resources to continue to improve the prison sector. In this context, I support the amendment.

I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words on the motion and congratulate my colleagues on the Independent benches on introducing the subject for debate. It is one of the regrettable features of politics here that the Government always says "Yes" and the Opposition "No" or vice versa. When I saw the text of the motion tabled by Senator Henry and her colleagues I wondered why the Government would oppose it. Unfortunately, in tabling the standard amendment full of platitudes and aspirations, some of which are positive, it has chosen to do so.

The question we must ask when reflecting on the report of the Inspector of Prisons is whether the Government's promises will ever come to anything. Prisons and prisoners are sensitive issues. Politicians have, however, a duty to ensure that those imprisoned in any of the prisons throughout the State are treated decently and humanely. Prison is not simply a place of punishment but, more important, a place of rehabilitation.

A recent discussion by the sub-committee on human rights of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on the issue of prisoners overseas was raised on the Order of Business this morning. The sub-committee was particularly concerned about conditions faced by Irish prisoners overseas. The Government and Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform must take up some of the issues raised in this area. Before lecturing some of our European partners, particularly Britain, about the treatment of Irish prisoners held in their prisons, we must put our own house in order.

When one reads and reflects on the first annual report of the Inspector of Prisons and his correspondence with the Minister, one is forced to recognise that we have a long way to go. It is interesting to note Mr. Justice Kinlen's comment that his report "may make disturbing reading". He also states the public should realise the "problems of poverty, ignorance, homelessness and particularly drug addiction". This debate should focus on how we address these four issues.

It is not politically popular to show concern for prisoners. At at time when law and order continues — correctly — to be a major public issue, there is never an outcry about the plight of prisoners and the conditions in which they are held. These issues are part of the equation, however, because if we convict persons for criminal offences and sentence them to terms of imprisonment, we should aspire to ensure that, having served their term in prison, they will have reformed to the maximum possible extent. Unfortunately, given the lack of facilities, resources and adequate training in many of our places of detention, the hope of rehabilitating many of our prisoners is wasted. This debate must focus on how we can respond in a meaningful way to the report and ensure its recommendations are implemented and genuine progress is made before the second, third and subsequent annual reports are published.

As an independent work, the report of the Inspector of Prisons can be accepted by every party in the House. In this context, the Government amendment must be viewed as a political response, as is the way of all Governments. Nevertheless, we must recognise that every political party and all recent Governments have been responsible for the current plight of prisoners and the state of our prisons. This degree of shared responsibility is the reason we should be mature enough to accept this worthy motion, which simply notes with disappointment that few of the recommendations of the inspector's first report have been implemented.

Reading page after page of the report's general recommendations, it is clear they all make common sense and are impossible to oppose. I hope the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is not afraid to be politically different and courageous when necessary, will try to ensure the recommendations will be implemented. It would not mark a climbdown on the law and order front or be a sign of weakness on the part of the Minister or Government if they were to choose to treat prisoners in a fair and humane manner.

The most prominent issue in the minds of the public is the replacement of Mountjoy Prison. We all welcome this development and hope to see progress on it at the earliest possible date. In all the State's prisons, of which Limerick, Cork and Portlaoise Prisons are the best known, improvements are needed in terms of staffing, facilities, counselling and resources. As the inspector stated, the issue of drugs, in particular, must be to the fore of our deliberations. It is difficult to accept that drugs can be so freely available to the prison population or to appreciate that we have yet to introduce a proper system of drug enforcement in our prisons. In addition to the requirement to address prisoners' access to drugs, we must increase the resources allocated to trying to deal with the drug habit of prisoners. Clearly, it is preferable to deal simultaneously with the symptoms of the problem rather than tackling the availability of drugs alone. This and many other recommendations are contained in the report.

I reiterate my support for the motion, which every fair-minded representative would accept. I compliment the independent Inspector of Prisons, Mr. Justice Kinlen, for presenting such a substantial report in a very readable fashion, it should be on the desks of all Oireachtas Members. If we insist on everything in the report being put in place, not only will our prisons be better places for prisoners, society will benefit in the long run because those unfortunate enough to end up in prison will come out in much better shape and be much less likely to re-offend.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I compliment Senator Henry on raising this matter repeatedly on the Order of Business.

On Monday, I met Mr. Justice Kinlen to get an update on the recommendations he made in the report on St. Patrick's Institution and in his first two reports on prisons. Mr. Justice Kinlen is a bête noire for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. If the Department thought he would agree with everything it wanted, it was mistaken. He has had to send people to prison so no one understands the consequences of doing that better than him. In one of his reports he states that judges should justify the use of prisons because they are so expensive and seldom improve the prisoner.

The annual report of the visiting committee of St. Patrick's Institution for December 2004 found there were 182 inmates aged between 16 and 21, with 59 aged between 16 and 17. The idea of putting young people under 18 years of age into prison is savage. Generally, only the poor end up in prison. I will present a report on child care on Tuesday 28 June which will state that every child born in the State should have an equal opportunity and that no child born into a poor family should be deprived of developing his or her potential. The visiting committee of St. Patrick's Institution stated that basic literacy continues to be a problem at St. Patrick's and that a substantial number of inmates are unable to read or write. Sadly, their language skills are so poor that their ability to construct oral sentences is very limited.

We condemn people to isolation in prison cells, instead of using the prison system to educate them and help them to make up the ground they lost in the past. By rehabilitating them, we could enable them to get a job instead of offending again. When we look back at this in 30 years, we will consider what we are doing to be savage.

Mr. Justice Kinlen notes that the chaplain in St. Patrick's Institution, who regards himself as independent, stated he was concerned and distressed about the situation in the institution. He said it is run as a prison when it should be a rehabilitative centre to help people to find themselves so they can cope when they return to society. Locking inmates in their cells for 17 hours a day should be discouraged and activities should be encouraged to distract the inmates from crime.

When Mr. Justice Kinlen publishes his third report this week which we should study. It is a pity we did not have it in time for this debate. Vision is necessary. Politicians must change society, not act as dead-handed bureaucrats who interfere politically. We are here to change society.

I commend Mr. Justice Kinlen and thank him for the passion he has displayed as independent Inspector of Prisons since 2002. He asks that we, as legislators, ask the Minister to put his position on a statutory footing and make it independent. He also recommends that the probation service be independent, as it is in Northern Ireland. If we had real vision, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform would establish an independent authority for the Garda and an independent probation service that could work to rehabilitate young offenders.

In May 2002, Fr. Peter McVerry, SJ, accompanied the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment when it visited Ireland. He said many inmates interviewed by the delegation indicated they had reasonably constructive relations with most of the prison staff. In all three prisons the delegation visited, however, it heard complaints of verbal abuse. In Dublin it also heard complaints of physical ill treatment, kicking, slapping and rough treatment of prisoners by staff, frequently related to placements in padded cells, although that is now being dealt with.

The committee also noted with concern that there is no independent complaints board. Although we are not appointing a Garda ombudsman similar to the police ombudsman in the North, at least the three-person ombudsman committee will be independent of the Garda Síochána. There should be an independent complaints authority for those in prison so those investigating assaults on prisoners do not work in the prisons themselves.

I am glad Senator Henry tabled this motion. We should raise this issue again in the autumn and keep track of the third report. We must do everything we can to help those in prison and to protect their human rights so they can be rehabilitated into society.

I thank all Senators who took part in this useful debate. I thank the Minister for his speech except where he commended the amendment to the motion to the House. Senator Ryan once told me, as a compliment, that motions I put down are so anodyne that they do not need amending. I would have thought this was one of these cases. However, I regret the amendment was tabled because it is difficult to get issues such as prisons, mental health and so forth discussed in the House. Like Senator White, Members understood this is why I tabled the motion. I asked a month ago for it to be discussed but there was no action. I, therefore, decided to take on the issue myself. Members will remember the little red hen who said that it is best to do things oneself.

I thank Senators for their comments which have been useful. I am glad the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, is in the House. One matter that does concern me is that the Central Mental Hospital will be transferred to the prison site in north Dublin. I am not enthusiastic about this. When the House debated mental health, I believed the understanding of the Minister of State was that it would not be transferred to the prison site. It is important to remember that a substantial number of people in the Central Mental Hospital have not been convicted or even accused of crimes. Putting them on a penal site is a retrograde step. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance earlier stated:

The Tánaiste has asked her officials to examine the option of providing a separate governance structure for the hospital, by way of its own board, reflecting its importance as a national, tertiary psychiatric service.

I am concerned that it is only an option.

There are some concerns about the prisons being disposed of by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Shanganagh Castle is worth an enormous amount of money. Senator Jim Walsh and other Members were right to raise the issue of work. At one stage, Shanganagh had an admirable horticulture centre from which the prison sold the produce. Due to cutbacks this had to be stopped. It is difficult for people coming out of prison to get employment. If anyone is like me, people are desperate to get gardeners. People who can grow almost anything or can get employment in horticulture centres are invaluable. It was a great sadness to me that this happened at Shanganagh and in St. Patrick's Institution.

I recall Mr. Justice Kinlen's remarks about value for the taxpayer. A sum of €9 million was spent in St. Patrick's Institution on a facility which was supposed to take on 12 to 16 year olds. Senator White will be appalled by this. However, from what I understand the place is empty. As Senator Cummins stated the amendment is simply a set of proposals. It is a little like the part of the speech that stated we have been provided with copies of the rules. Apparently we have been but we did not know this because they were downstairs. Using the term "will be" would have been more honest.

When will these bricks and mortar proposals come to fruition? There is so much in Mr. Justice Kinlen's report that could be implemented in the meantime. I agree with Senator White that his position should be made statutory immediately not just for his sake but in order that the inspectorate can become independent. It does not appear to be functioning properly.

Recently, I visited the maximum security prison in Spoleto, Italy. I was interested to see how much of the prison is run by the prisoners. These people are serving horrific sentences, many of whom have served 25 years of a 30-year sentence. This place really meant business but a large amount of work there was done by the prisoners. Payments were made for these jobs. As one person there told me this is important because when a child of an inmate is making his or her first holy communion, it is good that the prisoner can give him or her a few bob. It is good to make people as much a part of society as possible. I used to go to the plays in Mountjoy Prison where many of those participating would not give even their first names. Nowadays, many will give even their surnames. They thank, say, Bernadette, their fathers, mothers and the families for their support while they are in prison. They have a pride in what they are doing. Did the Minister of State see some of those prisoners taking the leaving certificate in Mountjoy Prison on television recently? They all gave their full names, explaining what they were doing.

All Members are agreed that rehabilitation is the important matter. One can put people in prison. It gets them out of the way for a certain length of time. However, it is an expensive way of doing so. It would be easier to employ people to whom prisoners were handcuffed and send them around on an eight hourly basis. We are spending huge amounts on running prisons. I accept there are vicious and violent people in prison. However, there are also many Senators would like to see out of prison, playing a more constructive part in society.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 14.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Walsh, Kate.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Henry and O’Toole.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.