Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (164)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

266 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Government has reneged on its promise made in 2000 to expand the successful CONNECT prisoner rehabilitation project piloted in Mountjoy Prison into all prisons by 2006 with a budget of €58 million, when a 2001 review of the pilot found that participants were ten times less likely to re-offend on release than other prisoners; the further reason most of the €58 million allocated for CONNECT was officially withdrawn; and his plans for the future roll-out of this project, including budgetary allocations for 2005 and the timescale. [25726/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The CONNECT project was launched in 2000 as a part of the Prison Service training and development programme, with funding amounting to €58 million allocated under the national development plan. There is no separate budget for this programme. The funding involved is provided annually by the Exchequer as part of the prisons Vote. Expenditure since 2000 has gone mainly to funding salary and incidental costs incurred in providing vocational training in the prisons, as well as meeting the cost of some capitals works and materials used in the manufacture of products in prison workshops for the Special Olympics in 2003.

The CONNECT projects at Mountjoy Prison, the Dóchas centre and the training unit were established with the support of the National Training and Development Institute, NTDI, and are now capable of independent operation. A process of internal review during 2002 prompted a refocusing of the project prior to its roll-out to further institutions. In particular, the review identified the need for new management structures so as to better support the project's sentence management processes in the delivering institutions. Following this internal review, roll-out of the project commenced at Limerick Prison but was subsequently put on hold against the background of the current industrial relations and attendant financial difficulties. The intention is, however, that the roll-out will resume with renewed NDTI support when there is a successful outcome to the current negotiations with the Prison Officers' Association. The CONNECT projects in Mountjoy Prison, the Dóchas centre and the training unit, which are similarly affected by the current industrial relations and financial difficulties, will also resume full operations at that point.