Prisons Bill 2006: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to be before the House today to present the Prisons Bill 2006. This Bill deals with a number of issues relating to prisons and prisoners and its purpose is manifold. The Bill provides primarily for the following matters: video conferencing of certain non-trial court hearings; the placing of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons on a statutory footing; planning provisions for major prison developments and the closure of Mountjoy Prison; the issues to be included in prison rules which include mandatory drug testing; a basis in primary legislation for revised disciplinary procedures, including appeals; the possibility of outsourcing prisoner escort services; a statutory basis for charging prisoners for certain optional services; and the exclusion of non-commercial work from the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.

In May of last year I published the Prisons Bill 2005 which completed Second Stage in this House. The aims of the Prisons Bill 2005 were much more limited. They were to outsource prisoner escort services, to provide for the video conferencing of certain pre-trial court hearings, and to provide for the closure of Mountjoy Prison. However, as time progressed it became increasingly obvious that the other prison-related issues I have mentioned needed to be addressed and that a prisons Bill would be the best place to do so. However, as the inclusion of such measures would have necessitated significant amendments being brought forward on Committee Stage, I felt it might be more proper in terms of parliamentary procedure and more straightforward for all parties to the process if the Bill were to be republished. I have thus withdrawn the Prisons Bill 2005 and republished it with the additional necessary provisions, resulting in a much more comprehensive piece of legislation.

As I have stated on many occasions previously since becoming Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in June 2002, I have been committed to introducing measures to reform and modernise the prison system. A number of significant changes to the prison system have been introduced or are in the process of being introduced. A comprehensive proposal for organisational change in the Irish Prison Service was accepted in a second ballot of members of the Prison Officers' Association in August 2005. The arrangements agreed in the revised proposal represent one of the most significant change programmes undertaken in the public service in recent years. They open the way for greater flexibility, efficiency and cost effectiveness in every operational area of the State's prisons. The new additional hours system replaced the existing overtime system and effectively caps the level of extra attendance costs in the Prison Service. Successful implementation of these measures is delivering savings to the Exchequer of up to €25 million per annum.

I also published a drugs policy and strategy for the Prison Service in May of this year. This strategy provides for the first time a co-ordinated, consistent national approach to eliminating the supply of drugs into prison as well as ensuring that appropriate treatment is available to prisoners to enable them conquer their addiction.

A major prisons building and refurbishment programme to improve facilities for prisoners, including the elimination of the practice of slopping out, the reduction of overcrowding and the use of padded cells and to facilitate a more cost-effective operation of the Prison Service has been ongoing. An extensive site at Thornton, County Dublin, has been purchased for the provision of a new prison complex to replace the existing prisons on the Mountjoy campus and planning is well under way for development of a new prison to replace Cork Prison. These are major undertakings involving replacement of approximately 40% of the entire prison estate. The replacement prisons for Mountjoy Prison and Cork Prison will provide decent, hygienic conditions for prisoners in line with modern-day standards. The new facilities will allow for the provision of a full range of work, training, educational, psychological and medical services for inmates, as well as predominantly single-cell accommodation with proper in-cell sanitation facilities.

New additional prison accommodation is also being provided at Loughan House, Shelton Abbey, Castlerea, Wheatfield and Portlaoise. In addition, the programme of work to install safety observation cells and closed supervision cells was undertaken in 2005 and completed in 2006 following my commitment to abolish the use of old-style padded cells in our prisons. These measures all represent further steps along the road of improving and modernising our prison system.

Part 1 of the Bill, encompassing sections 1 to 3, contains standard provisions, including the Short Title, commencement, an expenses provision and the definitions of key terms used throughout the Bill. Part 2, which covers sections 4 to 10, deals with prisoner escort services. As Senators may recall, when the 2005 Bill was published it appeared that proposals for organisational change within our prisons would be rejected by prison officers. In those circumstances, I would have had no choice but to contract out prisoner escort service in the interests of providing a cost effective service. Since then, an organisational change programme has been agreed with the Prison Officers' Association. One of the elements in that agreement was the establishment of a co-ordinated prisoner escort system operated by prison officers within the Prison Service. The escort corps was set up towards the end of 2005. There is a staffing complement of 143 and we currently have a fleet of 35 specialised cellular vehicles.

While the main business of the service is providing escorts to and from the courts, it also covers inter-prison and hospital escorts. I am glad to tell the House that the level of coverage provided by the PSEC for court escorts now stands at 94%. In staffing terms, the escort corps operates, on average, more than 33% more efficiently on court escorts than the previous overtime based operating system.

I believe the House will agree that great progress has been made in building this service from scratch in just under a year. As long as the service continues to operate efficiently and in cost effective terms, there is no need, nor do I have the desire, to contract out the service. However, to ensure I am not left in a difficult position should there be future glitches in the provision of this service, it is important there is legislative provision for the possibility of contracting out of a prison escort service and I am making such provision here. It is my intention not to commence this Part unless I have to do so and I hope such provisions will never have to be brought into force but it is, nonetheless, essential that they exist.

To summarise Part 2, section 4 provides definitions of terms used in this Part. Section 5 provides that the Minister may, with Government approval and the consent of the Minister for Finance, enter into an agreement for the provision of prisoner escort services. The section further provides for the termination of such an agreement if the contractor fails to comply with any of the provisions of an agreement and outlines the role of a prisoner escort service. Section 6 provides for the certification of prisoner custody officers who will provide the service. Any person may apply for a certificate that he or she is, in the Minister's view, a suitable person to perform the functions of a prisoner custody officer. Any application must include the relevant fee and any requested documentation. The section goes on to outline the criteria to be met before the Minister may issue a certificate and the conditions under which the person holds such a certificate. There is also provision for refusal of a certificate and penalties for people who forge or possess a forged certificate.

Section 7 goes on to deal with the revocation of a certificate and section 8 outlines the functions of a prisoner custody officer. Section 9 prohibits unauthorised disclosure of information relating to a prisoner by a prisoner custody officer and section 10 provides for the Minister to appoint a person to monitor the performance of a contractor under this Part.

Part 3, which covers sections 11 to 16, inclusive, relates to prison discipline. The provisions in this Part are new to the 2006 Bill and include the establishment of an appeals mechanism against disciplinary sanctions imposed within a prison. Section 11 defines terms and section 12 provides for an inquiry to be held by a prison governor if a prisoner is alleged to have committed a breach of discipline. The prisoner must be informed of the date and time of the inquiry and the procedure to be followed at an inquiry is to be laid down in prison rules. The section goes on to provide that, following such an inquiry, the governor may impose a sanction and record the finding and the sanction or record a finding that the allegation was not substantiated.

Section 13 lists the sanctions that may be imposed and provides that a sanction may be suspended subject to conditions, in whole or in part, for a period not exceeding three months. Following that period, the sanction may then take effect or be abated or, if the relevant condition has been complied with, the sanction may be lifted. The section goes on to provide that the governor may restore any remission for good behaviour forfeited by a prisoner if such restoration is justified by subsequent good behaviour. Sanctions which may not be imposed are also listed and they include corporal punishment, collective punishment, sensory deprivation or deprivation of food, drink or sleep or any sanction that would constitute cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Under section 14, a prisoner on whom a sanction is imposed may make a petition to the Minister on the finding or the sanction and the Minister, following consultation with the governor, may affirm, alter, suspend or revoke the sanction imposed.

Section 15 provides, for the first time, for an independent appeals mechanism of a quasi-judicial nature to review loss of remission for prisoners. It provides that a prisoner who has had remission of a portion of his or her sentence forfeited may appeal the finding or sanction via the governor to an appeal tribunal. The tribunal may take submissions from the prisoner and governor and shall notify the prisoner of the date and time of the hearing. The prisoner may attend the hearing and have legal advice or representation for its purposes. The section further provides that the tribunal may uphold or quash the original finding. Decisions of an appeal tribunal shall be published in accordance with arrangements specified in the prison rules.

Section 16 goes on to lay down the powers of an appeal tribunal. An appeal tribunal shall consist of a member who shall be a practising barrister or solicitor of at least seven years' standing appointed by the Minister. The terms and conditions of a member's appointment, including remuneration, are determined by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance. A member may resign at any time or be removed by the Minister for stated reasons. A tribunal may determine its own procedure subject to the terms of the Bill and directions given by the Minister in the interests of securing consistency of procedures in relation to appeals. A tribunal shall be independent in its functions.

Part 4, which covers sections 17 to 29, inclusive, deals with planning procedures in regard to the construction of new prisons and the extension of existing prisons. These provisions are new and did not feature in the 2005 Bill. Section 17 provides definitions of terms and section 18 provides that this Part shall apply only if the Minister so directs. I am conscious that large prison developments can be a cause of controversy. For that reason I do not wish, as a general rule where large scale prison developments are involved, to take advantage of the planning arrangements provided for in Part 9 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, which permit the exemption of prisons and places of detention from the normal planning regime. On the other hand, the development of a major prison facility is a matter of national importance and not appropriate to local or regional orientated planning systems. There is a need for the issue to be addressed at national level and, therefore, in the interests of democracy I am providing the opportunity for both Houses of the Oireachtas to have an input into the process.

Section 19 deals with what is called an "environmental impact assessment". An EIA shall be prepared before a development is commenced but shall contain a description of the proposed development as well as any significant effects it might have on the environment, including natural resources, architectural and archaeological heritage and expected emissions. The assessment must also contain an outline of the main alternatives that were considered as well as the main reasons for choosing the development. It will estimate possible residues and emissions during and after construction and will also describe any measures used to reduce, avoid or offset significant adverse affects. The section also provides that a visual representation of the exterior of the completed development shall be prepared but obviously plans of every cell, etc., cannot be published.

Section 20 provides that on receipt of the environmental impact assessment and the visual representation of the development, the Minister shall give notice of the proposed development to the planning authorities in the relevant area. Members of the public shall be informed of the development by means of the placing of a notice on the site and in a national and local newspaper. Furthermore, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government shall be informed as shall the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, if the development is adjacent to the foreshore, and the relevant authority in another country, if the development is likely to have significant adverse effects on that country's environment. Section 21 lays out what must be contained in the notices to which I have referred and section 22 provides that the EIA and the visual representation must be made available to any interested party in written form or electronically.

Under section 23, the Minister shall appoint a rapporteur to receive submissions relating to the proposed development and the rapporteur is required to prepare a report which summarises the submissions received and identifies the main issues raised. This report shall be published. Section 24 deals with a situation where the Minister, on foot of the rapporteur's report, decides to alter the proposed development. In this case the Minister shall cause an amended description of the development to be prepared as well as a supplementary EIA and an amended visual representation of the exterior, if material alterations are made to the exterior. The persons and bodies specified in section 20 shall be notified of any proposed alteration. Again, submissions may be made in relation to the revised proposal and submitted to the rapporteur who shall prepare a supplementary report on the basis of the submissions received and this report shall be also published.

Section 25 provides that the Minister, having considered the EIA, the rapporteur's report and any supplementary EIA and report, may make further alterations to the development and may proceed or decide not to do so. Under section 26, if the Minister decides to proceed with the development, he shall move a draft resolution approving the development in both Houses of the Oireachtas. This resolution must contain a description of the development, a statement that an EIA — and supplementary EIA, where applicable — has been prepared, the measures taken to invite observations from the public, the main measures taken to avoid, reduce or offset any significant adverse effects and a drawing or visual representation of the exterior. The resolution must also specify any conditions with which the developer must comply.

Before moving the resolution, documents must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, including a statement of the location, purpose and size of the proposed development, its land use requirements during construction and operation and any estimated residues or emissions. The EIA, and any supplementary EIA, a visual representation of the exterior and the rapporteur's report and supplementary report, if applicable, must also be laid before the Houses. If the draft resolution is approved and confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas, the Minister may then proceed with the development. In this respect it will resemble the restrictive practices code that existed before the Competition Authority and by which there was an enabling Act, an examiners' inquiry and an examiners' report. If the Minister wanted the report to have the force of law, he or she had to confirm the report and move a confirmatory, one-line Act before the Oireachtas to give the development legislative approval.

Section 27 provides that any questioning of an act done under this Part must be by way of an application to the High Court. Section 28 deals with exemptions relating to the development in terms of planning permission and requirements set out in other legislation. This section also provides that if a national monument is found on the site, no further work may be undertaken, except to preserve the monument, without direction from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in consultation with the director of the National Museum. Section 29 prohibits the disclosure of any information concerning design or construction which is likely to prejudice the security of a new or extended prison.

Part 5, encompassing sections 30 to 32, inclusive, providing for the establishment of an office of inspector of prisons on a statutory basis, is also new. Section 30 provides that the Minister may appoint an inspector of prisons, who shall hold office on terms determined by the Minister in consultation with the Minister for Finance. The inspector may at any time resign from office or be removed by the Minister for stated reasons. An appointment shall be for a term of not longer than five years and the inspector is independent in the performance of his or her functions.

Section 31 lays out the duties of the inspector of prisons. He or she shall carry out regular inspections of prisons, may enter any part of a prison at any time, obtain copies of any records kept there and report to the director general of the Prison Service or the Minister as appropriate on any issues of concern. The inspector may, and shall if requested by the Minister, investigate any matter relating to the management or operation of a prison and shall submit a report to the Minister on such an investigation, which shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The section further provides that the Minister may omit matters from the report if disclosure would be prejudicial to the security of the prison or the State. The Minister may also omit matters from the report, after consultation with the Secretary General to the Government, if disclosure of such matters would be contrary to the public interest or would infringe the constitutional rights of any person. The section goes on to clarify that it is not the inspector's role to investigate complaints from individual prisoners and that any request from the inspector for information must be complied with by prison staff in so far as is reasonably practicable.

Section 32 provides for the inspector of prisons to submit an annual report to the Minister on any prison inspected in the year in question. The report shall deal with the general management of the prison, health and welfare of the prisoners, general conduct of staff, compliance with set standards, facilities available, security and discipline. Each report shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and shall be published.

Part 6 of the Bill contains a range of miscellaneous provisions. Section 33 deals with the hearing of applications to court by video link. Previous provisions featured in section 11 of the 2005 Bill. However, following receipt of the final report of the committee on videoconferencing chaired by Ms Justice Susan Denham, the range of circumstances in which videoconferencing might best be used without the accused being physically present in the court has been significantly expanded from the limit of pre-trial hearings provided for in the 2005 Bill to the range of non-trial hearings specified in section 33(11).

This section applies to the applications to court where the accused or person convicted is in prison, where the application is being made by either the Director of Public Prosecutions or a prisoner and where the prisoner is legally represented or has obtained or been given the opportunity to obtain legal advice. In these circumstances, the application may be heard without the prisoner being physically present, that is, by video link, if the court is satisfied that it would not be unfair to the prisoner, if the interests of justice do not require the prisoner's presence at the hearing and if the video link facilities allow the prisoner to participate in the hearing, the court to see and hear the prisoner and the prisoner to consult privately with his or her legal representative during the hearing.

When the judge is making the decision whether the application to court may be heard by way of video link, he or she must have regard to the nature of the application, how complex the hearing is likely to be and the prisoner's age and mental and physical capacity. An application for the hearing to be heard by means of video link may be made either by or on behalf of the prisoner or the DPP, and if the application is refused, the court must state its reasons for that decision. A direction under this section may be revoked at any time, whether on application or not. Section 34 applies the provisions of section 33 to children in remand centres or children detention schools.

Section 35 deals with the making of prison rules by the Minister. It builds on the power to make such rules provided for in section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997. In addition to the range of issues provided for in the 1997 Act, provision is also made for testing prisoners for intoxicants, including alcohol and drugs, and for the publication of decisions of an appeal tribunal on the forfeiture of remission of a portion of a sentence.

The existing prison rules date back to 1947. I published comprehensive new draft prison rules in June 2005, which are on my Department's website. The intention in publishing draft prison rules was to give people an opportunity to submit observations on them. One issue that has been raised is that the rules relating to prison discipline in particular should have a strong grounding in primary legislation. As the House can see, I have taken that view on board. As soon as this Bill is enacted, it is my intention to sign the draft rules, with some amendments, into law.

Section 36 amends the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 to ensure that payment of the minimum wage is not applicable to prisoners undertaking non-commercial work within a prison, including cleaning, training or work experience and charity work. To date, payment of the minimum wage has not applied to prisoners performing these tasks, but for the sake of legal certainty it has been decided that a specific exemption should be included in legislation.

Section 37 deals with payment by prisoners for requested services and provides that provision may be made for payment for special goods and services, including telephone calls, private medical treatment and escorts outside the prisons for matters that are not generally available without charge to prisoners. Any charges levied may not, however, exceed the cost of the provision of the goods or services to the prison authorities.

Section 38 provides for absences from prison on certain grounds. Under this section, the Minister may order that a prisoner be taken to a specified person or place for a specified purpose and time and be returned to the prison thereafter. Such leave may be granted on compassionate grounds, to assess or facilitate a prisoner's re-integration into society or for the purpose of assistance in the investigation of an offence. If during that period the prisoner is not of good behaviour, causes a breach of the peace or attempts to escape, he or she shall be returned to prison immediately. Section 39 provides that a prisoner in the custody of a garda, a prison officer or a prisoner custody officer is thereby in lawful custody. Section 40 contains technical provisions and amends references to the Prisons Acts in various enactments to also include this Act. The definition of prison officer is also amended in certain legislation to ensure it encompasses prisoner custody officers.

Section 41 repeals certain provisions in other legislation, including a provision relating to visiting committees, as some functions of visiting committees will now be encompassed by the appeal tribunals. The repeal of section 1(2) of the Prisons Act 1933, previously provided for in section 8 of the 2005 Bill, has the effect of providing a statutory power to enable Mountjoy Prison to be closed. Section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 is also being repealed. This section dealt with the making of prison rules, which is now being restated, with additions, in the current Bill. Section 42 is a standard regulation-making provision.

This Bill continues the programme of prison reform which I have commenced. We are changing how prisons are run, work practices in prisons, where prisons are located and, very importantly, we hope to change what is achieved by sending people to prison. Although I have stated before that imprisonment should be seen as a last option, it remains a necessary one. A prison which is not drug free is not rehabilitative and therefore fails in one of its primary objectives. That is why I make no apology for the drug-free policy we have enunciated and for giving it a firm foundation in primary legislation lest it be challenged or somebody say it was not contemplated by the Oireachtas that a prisoner should be obliged to participate on a mandatory basis in submitting samples and other measures to ensure that prisons are drug free.

There is no reason prisons and prison practices in Ireland should not be of the highest standard. We must move from what is, in some respects, a bad place to what I hope will be a better place. The public wants our prisons to be rehabilitative. Although people do not want prisons to be holiday camps, they do not want them to be places of which we are nationally ashamed, or which are counterproductive or fail to be rehabilitative. Prisons should be secure. I am committed to the provision of modern and humane conditions for prisoners in this country. I am committed to providing educational and rehabilitative facilities in our prisons to give people a chance to rebuild their lives while in prison by laying foundations for a useful role in society as a constructive citizen. The building of a new prison at the Thornton Hall site will be a major step in this regard.

I look forward to hearing the comments of Senators on this Bill and to a more detailed debate on Committee Stage. I apologise that I withdrew the first Bill and returned with this Bill. I had been subjected to criticism on other occasions for introducing radically different amendments on Committee Stage. I decided this Bill deserved a Second Stage debate rather than introducing new material by unexpected amendments on Committee Stage.

As I stated on Second Stage of the Prisons Bill 2005, there will be no objection from this side of the House to the provision of a modern and humane prison service. I restate my reservations about the privatisation of certain prison services. In July 2002 the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Irish Prison Service published the report of the prison service staffing and operations review team. This report argued that privatisation of these services will not save money. This section of the Bill is a response to the Minister's commitment to take on the Prison Officers' Association and I welcome his initiative to reduce the unsustainable level of overtime paid to that group. However, the taxpayer should not have to pay for high-priced solutions to problems that do not exist.

In other jurisdictions the experience of prison services that have been privatised has not been positive. In Britain a private security firm, Group 4, took over the running of an asylum detention centre. Shortly afterwards, there were numerous cases of detainees escaping or rioting within the complex. This was due to the inexperience of Group 4 staff. The Minister is not proposing that we privatise the running of prisons in Ireland but private operators will necessarily have to compromise on quality of service and experience of staff. In matters of prisoner transfer, the shortfall in the quality of service and professionalism provided by a private firm, compared to a state operator, will result in decreased security, staff who may not have the requisite training and private prison escorts who may commit human rights violations for which the State would be vicariously liable.

Furthermore, the involvement of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces will still be required for the transfer of high security prisoners, unless the Minister is planning to sanction the arming of private prison escorts. There will not be a net saving to the Exchequer and we should seriously consider these provisions before taking such an important step towards privatised prison services.

Fine Gael supports Part 3, which will allow the governor of a prison "to hold an inquiry into the alleged breach" of prison discipline by prisoners. Perhaps this should be extended to all persons in a prison including staff. More importantly, it gives the governor the power to impose punitive sanctions to deal with problems that arise.

I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify some aspects of this part of the Bill. As matters stand, decisions on prison discipline are made by the prison visiting committee. Is the new scheme outlined in the Bill designed to marginalise the prison visiting committee and further centralise decision making in this area? How will this improve the system?

I welcome the safeguards, such as the potential to petition the Minister against a finding or sanction, and the provision for an appeal to an independent appeal tribunal where a sanction involves forfeiture of remission of portion of sentence. However, the qualifications required for a person to sit on that appeals board are unnecessarily restrictive. Under section 16(3), only persons who have been practising as solicitors or barristers for at least seven years may sit on the tribunal. This may be modelled on other tribunals but it overlooks the pool of experience of former prison governors or people who have worked as chaplains, doctors, teachers or a range of other positions in prisons. A person who worked as a prison chaplain for 20 years is sufficiently qualified to deal with the kind of questions that would be addressed by an appeals tribunal.

On reading the Bill, I was struck by the arrogance of the Minister in respect of Part 4. He has removed the construction and modification of prisons from any planning scrutiny or independence. As recently as last July the Houses passed the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act. The development of prisons was not included in the extensive list of projects that can now be fast-tracked in the interests of national strategic infrastructure development. Why is the Minister so afraid that An Bord Pleanála be allowed to consider prison development? This provision removes any accountability, independence or transparency to the process of prison building and modification.

There may be security concerns in releasing designs or plans of the internal layout of a prison but it is not necessary to divulge any secure data to bring a prison building programme into line with normal planning procedures, or even strategic infrastructure development. Does the Minister not accept that this amounts to a further extension of a dictatorial regime?

There is no reason another section could not be added to the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act to include prisons. They may be even included without further amendment since prisons can be regarded as being of social importance, one of the criteria used in the Act to determine whether the Act is relevant to a project. The Minister has excluded any independent oversight of his decisions by An Bord Pleanála in respect of new prison development or developments on sites of old prisons.

The Minister should explain why he should be treated differently from other Ministers with major infrastructural projects. Independent oversight by An Bord Pleanála is an essential ingredient in the checks and balances of good planning and development. Nobody, not even the Tánaiste, should be above this oversight. The Minister is setting himself up as judge and jury on planning and building prisons. He is behaving in an arrogant and self-serving way. The Bill flies in the face of policy decisions of recent years that maintained a critical independent role for An Bord Pleanála regarding our built environment.

I welcome the provision that puts the inspector of prisons on a statutory footing, something for which Fine Gael has been calling for some time. The current inspector, the Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen, has been rightly critical of the Minister and the current prison regime. I admire him for highlighting some serious issues in our prisons. The manner in which his important reports have been treated by the Minister is deplorable. For the past three years the Minister has held off publishing the inspector's reports until the end of the Dáil session, stifling any debate on them by the Oireachtas. It is cowardly and petty and I hope the change in the status of the inspector's office will cause the Minister to revise his attitude.

Under section 32(3), the Minister will be obliged to publish and lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas, the annual report of the inspector on the performance of his or her functions. Unfortunately, section 32 does not indicate a timeframe within which that requirement must be fulfilled, and I will table an amendment on Committee Stage to ensure it is not delayed as has been the case in recent years. Section 35(1) allows the Minister to "make rules for the regulation and good government of prisons". I was not aware the Minister had to put this in legislation; I thought he already had the power to do this.

As stated on Second Stage of the previous Bill, I share the Minister's views on drug-free prisons, with the proviso that proper rehabilitation and modern medical facilities are set up in prisons. In this regard I am pleased to see the measures in section 35(2)(i) that allows for the testing of prisoners for drugs. However, I have doubts about the effectiveness of mandatory drug testing as it has been unsuccessful in solving prison drug use in other jurisdictions. For example, Scotland recently terminated a mandatory drugs testing programme after ten years because it found it simply had little or no effect on the number of prisoners taking drugs, was costing a substantial amount of money and was proving to be very bad value for money. I am interested in hearing the Minister’s response to remarks by the governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, that a drug-free prison cannot exist without denying prisoners fundamental rights of access to and physical contact with family members, children and spouses. Is it the Minister’s opinion that we should restrict physical contact between prisoners and visitors?

Given that drugs are routinely passed to prisoners in children's nappies, gifts and food and inter-orally, and accepting that there is no foolproof way of non-invasively searching all visitors, what is the Minister's view on balancing prisoners' rights to see their families in person rather than over a telephone line through a Perspex screen with the rights of prison authorities to put in place strict measures to prevent drug infiltration for the good of prisoners and that of the wider community and society as a whole? How does he perceive a scheme to eradicate drug use in prisons operating. Drugs in prisons are a major problem. Leaving aside the apparently tolerated illegality involved, the scope of this problem means non-drug users who are sent to prison are in enormous peril of becoming drug addicts, thereby further exacerbating the significant drug problem. For example, I know of a drug-free wing in Mountjoy Prison where the non-use of drugs is strictly enforced. If a prisoner is found using drugs in that wing, he is transferred to another wing that is not necessarily drug-free. Does the Minister believe this kind of double standard is tolerable and is he convinced the introduction of mandatory drug testing would solve the problem?

I do not have a difficulty with the provisions of section 36. The most important words in the amendments to the 2000 Act are "non-commercial". I would be opposed to any other scheme. However, as long as it pertains to non-commercial work, such as the activities outlined by the Minister in his press release of 14 November 2006, namely, cleaning or kitchen work; educational, training or work experience activities; and the production of goods or services which are for the purposes of raising funds for charitable purposes or are provided without charge or with nominal charge, I am happy for the amendment to the 2000 Act to be passed.

With regard to the provisions in section 37 which allow the Minister to provide for charges to be made to prisoners for goods or services that are not generally available to prisoners, the section as drafted is unduly broad and unspecific. For example, section 37 currently includes telephone calls, access to electronic devices, private medical treatment or escorts provided outside the prison for matters not related to their imprisonment, but there are many other undefined services for which a prisoner could be charged. Furthermore, it is not clear what is meant by some of the specified services. Paragraph (b) refers to access to electronic devices. I or another person might immediately think of the Internet, a computer or even a personal stereo, but someone else might decide paragraph (b) refers to a toaster, a television, a radio or a kettle. Surely the devices included in this section should be clearly specified to remove any doubt. Will it be the case that prisons, notwithstanding the last part of the section, will forbid prisoners from owning their own electronic devices in order that they will have to rent them from the prison? I pose this question for the Minister.

Paragraph (c) is particularly worrying because it covers medical treatment. Does it mean prisons will no longer provide access to a doctor? For the purposes of the section, what does requesting a service mean? What does the Bill mean by “private” medical treatment? Are we talking about an optional visit to a doctor for a check-up or some unspecified reason or are we talking about a prisoner who is experiencing chest pain? At the risk of sounding facetious, if someone collapses and is unconscious, can he or she be deemed to have requested the private medical treatment? I am worried about the precedent that would be created by a legislative proposal that effectively suggests prisoners should not have access to medical treatment unless they are willing to pay for it.

Paragraph (d) allows prisons to charge prisoners for escorts provided outside the prison for matters not related to the imprisonment of those prisoners. I understand the logic behind this and am aware it can be costly for prisoners to be gallivanting around under the supervision of highly trained prison officers. However, I cannot think of many examples where a prisoner who requires a security escort would seek and obtain permission to be out and about. The examples I can think of include attendance at weddings, funerals and other exceptional events. Does the Minister propose a prisoner should have to pay a potentially substantial sum in order to attend his or her father’s funeral or his daughter’s wedding? There is a substantial lack of clarity in this provision which must be resolved.

Finally, I assure the Minister that Fine Gael supports, in broad stokes, this Bill. However, I have many reservations about its specifics and, as I previously stated, will table amendments to effect changes in this regard on Committee Stage. I hope the Minister will take time to consider them carefully and seriously.

I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate him on becoming leader of his party and Tánaiste. I have not seen him since his appointment and wish him well in both posts.

I welcome the Bill. Its explanatory memorandum states, and the Minister has told us, that it will add a number of additional elements to the entire prison structure. The Minister mentioned that the office of an inspector of prisons would be put on a statutory footing, which is a very good idea. I am aware such an office is already in place but is not on a statutory basis. Senator Cummins accused the Minister of running away from change but given that he structured this in such a way that an individual must report to him on an annual basis and present an independent report informing him about what is right and wrong within the prison service is a testament to the fact that he is not afraid to hear bad news if it exists.

It is like going to court with the Devil and the jury from Hell.

Senator Cummins also accused the Minister of trying in some way to circumvent the system relating to the construction and development of prisons. He basically accused the Minister of setting himself up as judge and jury. However, the building of prisons, along with Garda stations, court houses and other Government buildings and offices, is exempt under section 181 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006. The Minister is providing an option for a considerable amount of consultation at all levels to such an extent that he is prepared to bring it back to the Houses of the Oireachtas for its sanction at the end of——

Why is An Bord Pleanála not involved?

I do not know what more Senator Cummins could ask for. His own party will have the option to object to or discuss matters relating to decisions the Minister might make in respect of the building and development of prisons from now on, which is admirable.

The Minister has had a few calls to make in the past 18 months to two years, particularly in respect of the Garda reserve force and prison officers' overtime. I applauded him for his stance on both issues. He was not for turning on either of them and I thought of the expression, "You can love him, you can hate him but you don't ignore him". This was the case in respect of his stance on prison officers' overtime. That his changes have now been accepted is a vindication of his determination in the first instance and the Government's support for him. The immoral and unsustainable levels of overtime paid to prison officers at that time, in excess of their gross pay, could not be sustained. Something that was costing us €60 million per annum now saves us in the region of €30 million and, as far as I am aware, there has been no effect on the efficiency or effectiveness of the service.

The Minister said that he has changed his mind on privatising the prisoner escort service and that he will leave it within the existing framework, albeit in a different guise. I would have no difficulty with the privatisation of that service. A number of prison officers are tied up in it, as are a number of gardaí who could be otherwise engaged in the frontline activity of tackling crime. However, I am pleased the Minister is satisfied that the way he has dealt with this service will result in continuing efficiency and financial saving.

I can also understand the reason the Minister might have been slow to privatise the service in the first instance. He might have had concerns about the passing of the operation of the service, traditionally run by the State, to an outside agency, whose aim is to make a profit and that the individuals who would be involved in it would want to make a profit. If there was corner cutting or anything like that, the safety of the public would have to be primary in the Minister's consideration in making such a change. While I can understand why he might be slow to make the change I can also understand why he might do it at a future date if circumstances change. Having read the explanatory memorandum, I am satisfied the Minister has included sufficient safeguards in the Bill to ensure that in the event of such a change, provision for the certification of individuals who would operate this process ensures the necessary safety mechanisms are in place.

The introduction of video conferencing is a great idea. I said that on the last occasion we spoke about this issue in 2005. It seems such an excellent and cost-saving method one wonders why it was not introduced long ago. If it is operated to its optimum level, it will provide great savings and the avoidance of hardship. As the Minister stated, it is not possible to have video conferencing on all occasions because there are times, for obvious reasons, when people must go to court. Apart from the financial saving that would be offered by its introduction, it would result in a reduction in security requirements with people not having to be brought to court.

The crime that probably exasperates most people, as it does me, is that committed by 15 to 18 year olds. These young people are too old to stay at home with their parents and watch television. They are too young to be served alcohol in a pub and, as consequence of that, they go to the local off-licence to buy alcohol. They then go to the local park and fill themselves up with alcohol and on the way home create havoc. If one knocks on the door of a house in any housing estate on the north side or south side of this city, people will say, including myself, that the greatest curse are these young lads going home at 12.30 a.m. or 1 a.m. Wing mirrors of cars have been broken on countless occasions.

I have spoken about this problem to Garda sergeants and inspectors in my local area. I will cite an incident involving an individual that would drive people crazy, as it did my neighbour. This young fellow walked down the road at 9 a.m. and threw a bin on top of my neighbour's brand new car. The neighbour telephoned the gardaí who came down and brought the young man to the Garda station but three hours later he was back sitting on my neighbour's wall waiting for him to come out to give him the old gesture. He then proceeded to throw a rock through my neighbour's front window, gave him the two fingers, called him a scab and ran away.

Such vandalism drives people crazy. There is nothing one can do about it as it is a feature of society. A number of these individuals are to be found hanging around.

Why can the Senator not do something about it?

I appreciate that many of them have had a poor upbringing, have suffered abuse and violence in the home and have been seriously neglected. Such abuse was probably never adequately addressed in some instances or recognised in other instances. The parents cannot crawl out from under the rock in this regard. While education has a major role to play in such cases, a fog seems to drift over other young boys who attend secondary school after consuming alcohol at night and then become hooligans.

The majority of the young people engaged in such crime probably left school with no qualification and some of them may be illiterate. We must rescue them at the earliest possible time from engaging in such behaviour. We need to get them off the streets into an educational environment, in a prison if necessay. In most cases it probably would be the place to provide for them. It is not good enough simply to log their crimes and let them back on the street. The courts are a major player in regard to such cases. Something must be done to alleviate the stress and anxiety caused to people by such criminal behaviour. It may be minor, and to a large extent it is, but it is major to the individual who suffers it.

Many of these young people have a low level of education. I would say that many of the young people in St. Patrick's Institution are categorised universally as such. The system has failed them and, consequently, they have failed to achieve. Given the importance of education for the future of these young people, under rehabilitation programmes priority must be given to make up to them for what they have lost by giving them training and educational opportunities that will help them present better for jobs.

The Senator's party has been in office for only ten years.

Allow Senator Kett to continue without interruption.

The provision of literacy programmes in the education system is a basic requirement. If one is illiterate, one cannot avail of the other educational advantages that might be available. Many of these young people have low self-esteem and if one has low self-esteem, one does not respect oneself or society. These are all issues the Minister has tackled at different levels in his time in office. I have no doubt we are tackling them by degrees.

I strongly support the view, one the Minister has echoed at different times, that we must regard imprisonment as a last resort. Those in prison, in the main, have been marginalised. It was said at one time that one only had to look at someone's postal address to realise how they would end up. Unfortunately, that is still the case because disadvantage breeds disadvantage. It is why these young people have ended up where they are. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that we do what we can to change the position to bring about a change for them.

We are also dealing with an expanding population. I heard Opposition Members say that we should not consider increasing our current prison spaces. In 30 years' time we probably will have a population of 8 million as distinct from a current population of more than 4 million. It is naive in the extreme to think that we will not require more prison spaces.

The Judiciary must also play its part. If the Judiciary, in dealing with cases, determines that young people can be kept out of prison rather than put into it, there is an onus on us to fund alternatives such as probation, supervision and restorative justice services, which the Minister is doing. We have seen the level of financial commitment the Minister has given to a range of areas in the system since his time in office. I have no doubt that will continue,

I applaud what the Minister is doing in the Bill. It will substantially improve, in a practical way, the existing elements of the justice system. I wish it well in its passage through the House.

I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House. I also welcome the Bill. We debated the matter earlier in the year and I will not repeat what we covered on that occasion.

In 1993, on one of my first occasions to speak in the Seanad, I spoke on a prisons Bill. I asked rhetorically what was the purpose of prison. Reasons for prisons are punishment, to act as a deterrent, and to protect society from those who commit crime and rehabilitation.

Whatever our mixture of reasons for putting people in jail, if we are honest we must admit the prison service is bad at fulfilling any of these, even acting as a deterrent or keeping society safe. Meanwhile, it succeeds in far less attractive and desirable matters. Our prisons provide an excellent education and training system for the life of crime. Someone told me in Dublin we have four universities and asked me to name the fourth. He meant we had UCD, Trinity and DCU but that we also had the university of Mountjoy. He argued that of the four, Mountjoy had the most predictable results for its graduates.

We will put them on the register for Senator Quinn's panel.

I never thought of that. I thank the Minister.

Shamelessly canvassing.

I had not thought of that. Let us do that if the university seats will get the benefit. I am not sure who would do well out of them.

I am influenced by a meeting I had last week. I like name dropping, and this meeting was with someone who perhaps might be a future president of the United States, Rudi Giuliani. We spoke at a conference and during the question and answer session, he listed his achievements from when he was mayor of New York. He claimed one of his major achievements was that he solved the major crime problem. New York was known as the crime centre of the world. It was a dangerous place to be. After he had spent five years in office, it was cleaned up.

In my experience, New York is a different city now than it was 20 years ago when I first knew it. Mr. Giuliani takes credit for that. He stated when someone gets a ten-year sentence, it means ten years. When he spoke about the various aspects of jail, no word of rehabilitation was mentioned. I did not hear it from him. That is dangerous. He may have solved the problem in central New York. I was told afterwards that the problem went elsewhere.

When I spoke on this subject years ago, I realised we have ways to solve it. Having listened to the news during recent days, especially about the young Latvian mother killed in Swords and her lawyer who had to leave the country because he was threatened, I am frightened to think about what is happening in the country. We could have an outcry to lock up people and throw away the keys. We must take serious steps to ensure we use our prisons not only for rehabilitation but also to protect society. We must keep both those balls in the air.

Senator Cummins queried electronic devices and other details of the Bill. We should not include too much detail in a Bill such as this. Management is about getting results through other people. The wording the Minister included in the Bill is correct. It gives the person in charge, whether it is the Minister of the day with responsibility for justice or the governor of a prison, an opportunity to decide what is right in particular circumstances.

A major problem in Irish prisons is the level of inactivity. People are locked away for 16, 17 or 18 hours with nothing to do. If that is not solved, we will not be able to release people having rehabilitated them in some form. Recently, I read of 1,000 new prison places by 2010. I do not know whether it is in the Minister's speech. One's first thought is that it is a shame we need them. However, it looks as if we do.

Will the Minister comment on how well we fight against drugs? Drugs in prisons seem to be a serious and not easily solvable problem. We have alcohol counsellors. Do we have drugs counsellors and if so, how many? The link to inactivity and drugs is serious. I understand we can control the amount of alcohol entering prison and that it is far less easy to control the amount of drugs.

Mr. Giuliani spoke about ensuring the length of prison sentences mean what they say. If someone is sentenced to ten years, can we ensure he or she serve ten years, perhaps with remission for good behaviour? This Bill attempts to do so. The so-called revolving door was discussed on the radio today.

Technology such as video conferencing and electronic tagging was referred to. We do not use technology to the extent we could and should. I assume the Minister suggests new prisons and new prison places will be geared to enable us to use technology and the Bill will ensure we can do so.

Outsourcing is correct in general business terms and is regarded as a sensible means of completing what is not part of core business. Is escorting part of the core business of the Prison Service? As somebody with business experience, I am frightened at the amount of overtime being paid. If a better way exists, we should use it. I understand the Minister has arranged courthouses in prisons in order that those on remand do not need to go to the other end of the country to appear in court, accompanied by a couple of gardaí or prison officers each time. It makes good economic sense to achieve that.

Overall, I support the Bill and what the Minister wants to achieve. The Bill is clearly designed. However, it has not received the same attention I thought it would. It seems if I stop speaking, the Bill will have gone through its Second Stage. Senator Cummins is wondering whether anyone else will come in to speak. However, I will not continue to speak on that basis.

I applaud what the Minister wishes to do. I also applaud the new prisons, and not only Thornton Hall. The objectives of what the Minister wishes to achieve have a better chance of being reached with the steps being put in place. I am concerned if we are not careful, we will have an outcry against crimes, especially the vicious crimes committed in recent days and controlled and planned crimes which people order to be committed because they can. They did not happen in the past. It now appears the crimes that are taking place are not only well planned but are ordered by mafia-style gangs or other types of gangs. They are also influenced very much by the amount of illegal drugs involved and the money accruing from their sale. I support the Minister in his efforts and I hope the Bill is passed so that its objectives can be achieved.

I join in welcoming the Minister to the House to introduce this important legislation on prisons. Some time ago, we had a similar debate on this issue. Apart from this legislation, other practical steps have been taken by the Minister to improve prison capacity. In addition, prison conditions are quite commendable. Members of the House who serve on the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights visited Mountjoy Prison some time back. It must be said that one could not stand over the Victorian or Dickensian conditions and inadequate facilities which persist there. Both Mountjoy and St. Patrick's Institution are entirely inadequate for young people in particular. There is a stark contrast between Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas facility for female prisoners. Those of us on that visit came away with the strong view that Dóchas was much more conducive to the rehabilitation of prisoners, which is what we should be seeking.

In a previous debate in the House, the Minister acknowledged the view of many Members that prison should be a last resort. We have seen people being imprisoned for what are serious crimes but which are far from the organised crimes which frequently grab newspaper headlines. As a consequence of networking and the contacts they make in prison, those imprisoned for less serious crimes emerge much more equipped and inclined to become involved in a range of far more serious crimes than those for which they were initially incarcerated. It is essential, therefore, to have a justice system which will enable such people to make restitution to society for their crimes without having to serve time in jail.

We have discussed a range of alternatives in this regard. These include community service which is now part of our justice system, although it may not be well organised or used as frequently as we might like. We should avoid imprisoning people for less serious crimes while ensuring that they pay a price to society for their offences. In its own way, that can be rehabilitative so it is the right way to go. Such a system needs to be organised, however, so that the work undertaken is of real benefit to communities rather than forcing offenders to go through the motions by doing so many hours of community service. There should be a real benefit from such work. I do not know whether we could organise something through local government or an arm of Government whereby works undertaken in that regard would be of demonstrable benefit to society.

Some Members of the Opposition in the Lower House have mentioned the possibility of offenders doing service in the Defence Forces. The idea was ridiculed during a debate on RTE's "Questions and Answers" programme but it struck me that there may be some merit in it as an alternative to serving time in prison. Historically, the French foreign legion was known for its legendary feats of courage, training, commitment and dedication. Many recruits to the legion came from outside France but had committed offences there. Their participation in the foreign legion helped them to expunge their debt to society. I am not suggesting that we should establish an Irish foreign legion but there is some merit in the idea of military service for offenders. It is too easy to dismiss these alternative ideas.

On a number of occasions, the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights has discussed these matters. We have been frequently reminded by Deputies O'Connor and Hoctor that restorative justice functions well in Tallaght and north Tipperary. There is scope for extending that system throughout the country because it forces offenders to confront the effects of their crimes on victims. In doing so, they may well follow a better route in future.

Almost invariably, when sentences are suspended and the people involved later reoffend, the suspended sentences run concurrently with the subsequent sentences. That strikes me as a major anomaly. A suspended sentence is a tremendous facility afforded to one who commits a crime. If one reoffends during the term of a suspended sentence, however, I cannot see why both the suspended and subsequent sentences should not run consecutively. In that way, a person would clearly know that if he or she commits a crime subsequently, he or she will serve the suspended sentence in addition to any other sentence imposed. Consecutive sentencing should also apply to serious crimes committed by people on bail. Where crimes of a less serious nature are concerned, we should look to other ways whereby people can make restitution, including court orders restricting movement.

Some people spend time in jail for failing to meet their financial commitments. I would like to see a legal mechanism whereby, when courts determine that someone has not paid his or her debts to another person or institution, an attachment order could be made to the wages or social welfare payments of debtors. In that way, money can be recovered by those to whom it is owed, rather than sending the debtor to jail. Some debtors may consider a short jail term as a concessionary alternative to having to meet their financial commitments. We could be more innovative in our approach to such matters.

We have already debated the drugs issue on numerous occasions and it has re-emerged during this debate. A good friend of mine, who is a sensible businessman, has argued strongly that we should legalise certain drugs. I am not an expert in this area but I know the argument against doing so is that people who use soft, so-called gateway drugs can gravitate to much harder drugs, such as heroin. Across Europe, we are failing to deal effectively with the drugs issue. This applies to many crimes from organised crime, where paid assassins carry out murders, to drugs gangs involved in serious offences aside from the importation and sale of drugs. At the other end of the scale are the drug addicts involved in petty crime, which can be serious to victims, to fund their addiction. The EU should review its stance on these issues to deal with them in a more effective way. A whole new approach is required. I am gradually moving towards my friend's opinion on the issue and it should be evaluated in a thorough, professional way, although it is easy to dismiss such suggestions.

This Bill relates to the issue of prisons and I welcome it almost entirely. It is a major step forward in prison reform and the resourcing and facilities behind it will bring significant improvements. However, in conjunction with this, we must remove from the prison population all but serious criminal offenders who should be locked up for long periods. Early release should not rest solely on good behaviour. The offender should satisfy the authorities that the probability of re-offence is very low because society should be protected from hardened criminals.

I apologise to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if I am even more incoherent than usual. I had not expected to speak on this debate, but there was a misunderstanding over the number of speakers and I was called upon at short notice.

I have read the Bill and the Minister's script and there is a great deal in them with which no sensible person could disagree. I know many people who have been in prison, although I have never been a prisoner. On two successive weeks I had the extraordinary experience of lecturing in Portlaoise Prison to those calling themselves political prisoners, although I do not recognise them as such. I am notoriously prickly about things and I am not sure it is appropriate to have a Member of the Oireachtas searched and have everything of significance taken from his pockets. The typical argument is that such measures are taken to protect me from the prison population but I am not persuaded of that. I think it is deemed simpler to carry out such actions than to make exceptions for certain people with a role in the legislative process.

I went through four sets of double doors to reach the platform from which I addressed IRA prisoners one week and Irish Republican Socialist Party, IRSP, or Irish National Liberation Army, INLA, prisoners the next.

Perhaps they were members of the British Army.

I did not find any members of the British Army there. It felt surreal to discuss the nature of the Voluntary Health Insurance, VHI, system with a person serving the fifth year of a 40-year sentence for the murder of a garda. The experience lived with me.

I can understand the occasional, headline grabbing statement on the luxury of living in prison but anyone who makes such comments has even less experience of the prison system than I do. The prospect that such enclosure will be one's life for six months, not to mention 40 years, is quite overwhelming.

The prisoners are not imprisoned without reason.

Senator Walsh misunderstands me. My point is that the deprivation of liberty is the penalty. We take liberty for granted to such an extent that it is impossible to appreciate the effect of losing it. Crime cannot be separated from deprivation.

The other type of prisoner I knew related to the time I spent with the Simon Community. Having spoken to paramilitary prisoners in Portlaoise and homeless, mostly alcoholic, former prisoners who used the Simon Community, I am not persuaded that prison works in any way as a deterrent. Prison serves one purpose successfully and that is keeping dangerous people away from the general population. Of all the petty criminals I have known, those in prison for shoplifting, minor assault, drunk and disorderly behaviour, vagrancy, and so on, whether the penalty was imprisonment for six months or ten years was a matter of total indifference. This is true of a large section of the criminal class. We should not lock up serious drug pushers because the penalties will deter them but because it keeps us safe from them. This does not render us as safe as we would wish but prison is the safest place for such offenders.

Protecting society from specific people is one reason for having prisons, but it protects us from only a certain number of them. I am profoundly sceptical of the logic behind the philosophy that sees prison acting as a deterrent. The Minister is a very able man, regardless of my views on his opinions, and he may have access to serious, intellectually sustainable evidence that shows prison to work as a deterrent or to have a rehabilitative function. If this is the case, I would like to see it. I feel there may be a good deal of evidence that prison has the opposite effect.

There is a romantic notion that some people wish to go to prison to escape the winter, which may be true of two or three people in desperate circumstances, but it does not apply to the many homeless alcoholics I have met nor does it apply to the overwhelming bulk of minor criminals who spend a week here and there in prison. I recall a young man, now in his 40s and living permanently on the streets, who spent seven of the eight years between 13 and 21 either in juvenile detention or prison and it made no difference to his often obnoxious behaviour. A few people tried to help him along the way, not that it would be of any consolation to a person assaulted by him.

We must ask what prisons work towards. Many felt they worked for the Prison Officers' Association and I am glad the Minister achieved what he did in this regard because the practices tolerated were an embarrassment to the trade union movement.

Senator Ryan is a brave man.

Senator Leyden should know that is a well known fact. I do not think the trade union movement had anything to gain from what was going on. I am not sure of the purpose behind the enabling parts of this Bill relating to private security firms carrying out prisoner transportation. Perhaps it is a stick to wave at prison officers to ensure they keep their side of the bargain. I am not sure what stick they need to wave at the Minister to ensure he keeps his side of the bargain.

Debate adjourned.