Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Questions (212)

Clare Daly


212. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of additional spaces in work, training, exercise, and education facilities that have been made available in Midlands Prison since the opening of the new block in 2012; the number of prisoners currently engaged in work, training and education programmes in Midlands Prison; the number of prisoners engaged in work training and education programmes in Midlands Prison prior to the opening of the new block; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33907/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes that include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. At this point prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date. Where Governors consider, on the information available, that a prisoner needs a particular intervention they will initiate a referral.

The development of prisoner programmes forms a central part of the new Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012 - 2015. There is a clear commitment in the Strategy to enhance sentence planning, including Integrated Sentence Management, and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes such as education, work training and resettlement programmes.

In relation to participation in education programmes, the aim of the Prison Service places a strong emphasis on improving prisoners' employability prospects through Work Training activities and accredited vocational training courses. Over 100 workshops and service activities operate across the prison estate and the number of accredited courses and activities has increased in recent years. There are now over 100 qualifications available across 20 skill sets. 1,459 prisoners participated in accredited vocational training courses in 2012 - up from 314 in 2007 - and 1,030 prisoners received certificates in the last year.

A wide range of training workshops and service activities are operating in the Midlands Prison. These include carpentry, metalwork, computers, laundry, waste management, horticulture, industrial cleaning and catering. Prisoners housed in the new accommodation block in the Midlands have access to the existing Work Training and Education activities alongside other constructive activities such as gyms, paint parties, cleaning, and reception work. In addition to a recently opened 'bag and Tag' Tuckshop facility, the new block will also include workshop activities in printing/computers, catering training and light industry/craftwork. Soft skills programmes will also be facilitated in the new block.

In November, 2012, prior to the opening of the new block, an average of 108 inmates were engaged in work training activities in Midlands Prison compared with an average of 123 inmates in May, 2013. It is envisaged that the additional activities will come on stream in the near future once vacancies in the Work Training Officer (WTO) grade are filled through a competition which will be held in the coming weeks.

The aim of the Education Service is to deliver a high quality, broad, flexible programme of education that helps prisoners cope with their sentence, achieve personal development, prepare for life after release and establish an appetite and capacity for life-long learning. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of whole-time teacher equivalents to the prisons through the VECs (220 in the academic year 2012/13).

Ten general purpose rooms have been re-designated in the new block for education purposes, this equates to approximately 70 additional places. Prior to the opening of the new block 280 students attended classes per week. During the week ending 3 May 2013, 348 students attended classes. At present the formal academic year is complete and the summer programme is running with limited resources - 150 students attended classes during week ending 5 July 2013.