Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (566)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

566. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a highly successful fine art programme run by the National College of Art and Design in Portlaoise Prison from 1987 to 2010 was terminated by her Department in 2011; if she has read the positive review of this programme conducted by a person (details supplied); if she has seen the RTE documentary regarding some of those who took part in this NCAD programme, transmitted on 30 April 2014; if she will ask her officials to engage in discussion with the NCAD with a view to having this programme restored in Portlaoise Prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21387/14]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that funding to the National College of Art and Design was terminated in 2011 for a number of reasons including the need to prioritise the use of scarce resources where they can be most effectively utilised. The Irish Prison Service is continuing to review its priorities for spending in the education budget and is targeting areas of greatest need and best potential outcomes. We have commenced a process of closer engagement with the Department of Education and the Education and Training Boards in order to bring a more coordinated approach to prison education including reviewing the curriculum being provided to prisoners.

Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including notably the Education and Training Boards and Public Library Services. Each Education Centre now has the services of an Art teacher in addition to the 'Artists in Prison Scheme'. Preparations are currently underway for a prisoner art exhibition which will be held in the Hunt Museum Limerick in late 2014. This event is held every 2 years and prisoners from throughout the prison estate submit their work in ceramic and paint for display to the general public. The Irish Prison Service is currently compiling an anthology of prisoner's writing - including prose and poetry - which it is hoped will be published in late 2014.

The importance of arts and crafts classes for prisoners is fully acknowledged by the Irish Prison Service as these classes are often the initial passage for prisoners to get involved in the education process. Many prisoners have very negative experiences of education in the community and it is only by attracting them into education units in prisons through these classes that other needs can be identified and addressed. Last year, the Irish Prison Service received funding from the Arts Council and matched this amount, for the promotion of art in prisons. The average cost of the programme from 2005 to 2010 was €60,000 annually and regrettably it is not possible in the current economic climate to recommence.