Thursday, 2 May 2013

Questions (182)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

182. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position on the make-up of prison visiting committees; if he will provide a breakdown of the numbers of people on each committee of each prison; the number of vacancies on each committee at present; the procedure in place for vacancies to be filled; the remuneration for each committee member from 2007 to 2012; if he is considering the future of prison visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20990/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Visiting Committee members are appointed for a period of three years by the Minister for Justice and Equality under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order 1925. There are fourteen Prison Visiting Committees in existence - one for each institution.

Each Visiting Committee comprises no more than six members, and only suitable people with appropriate qualifications and a genuine interest in prison issues are appointed. There are currently 25 vacancies which I am in the process of filling, details of which are set out in the table below.

Unfortunately it is not possible to provide the figures for the remuneration for each committee member from 2007 to 2012 as this would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort to prepare and could not be justified in the current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources. However I can inform the Deputy that a per diem payment at a current rate of €142.50 per visit or meeting, which is subject to tax is paid to Visiting Committee members. The following table sets out the total expenditure paid out to the Visiting Committees over each of the past six years.

Year

Total Annual Payments

2007

€ 254,400.00

2008

€262,650.00

2009

€250.350.00

2010

€269,849.50

2011

€214,249.30

2012

€143,457.80

The Government has approved the drafting of a General Scheme of an Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, which will include provisions to make Visiting Committees more effective, while they continue their role of visiting prisons, meeting with prisoners, and liaising on their behalf with prison authorities. A link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons. As part of these plans, it is intended to expand the role of the Inspector of Prisons. I believe this will greatly enhance the Inspector's independent oversight of the prison system.

Subject to competing legislative priorities, it is expected that the General Scheme will be published this year. When work on preparation of the General Scheme has been completed, I will be seeking Government approval for its publication to facilitate a consultation process in advance of drafting and publication of the Bill.

LIST OF CURRENT PRISON VISITING COMMITTEE VACANCIES 1st May 2013

Prison / Place of Detention

Current membership

Vacancies

Arbour Hill

5

1

Castlerea

3

3

Cloverhill

2

4

Cork

4

2

Dóchas

5

1

Limerick

5

1

Loughan House

6

0

Midlands

3

3

Mountjoy

4

2

Portlaoise

3

3

Shelton Abbey

4

2

St. Patrick's

5

1

Training Unit

5

1

Wheatfield

5

1

TOTAL

59

25