I wish to advise the Deputy that at the end of June 2013, there were 608 prisoners on protection, of which 155 were on a restricted regime. Those not on a restricted regime can associate with other protection prisoners and have normal out of cell time during the day.
The Deputy will be aware that protection prisoners are those who are considered to be under threat or at risk in the general population. The Irish Prison Service must ensure in so far as possible the safety of prisoners, which is why those seeking protection are immediately separated from the general prison population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat.
It is at the committal stage that the majority of prisoners are identified as being in need of protection. In many instances, the prisoner will request protection and in other instances, either intelligence or the assessment of the Governor will identify a prisoner as requiring protection. Allowing prisoners to be accommodated in protective custody clearly demonstrates prison management's commitment to ensure safe and secure custody for offenders.
The Deputy will be aware that I published the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2012-2015 in April last year. The Strategic Plan includes a number of Strategic Actions one of which is a commitment to develop a specific strategy for prisoners requiring protection. The Strategy also commits the Prison Service to introducing appropriate assessment procedures to inform their prisoner placement policy, to ensure that prisoners are accommodated appropriate to their security status. I am advised by my officials that the concerns regarding protection prisoners outlined in the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2012 will be addressed in the development of this strategy and that the target of completion by 2015 will be met.