Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (655)

Bernard Durkan


655. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the number of members of criminal gangs due to be released from prison in 2021; the extent of plans to ensure they do not return to criminal ways; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7145/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service (IPS) that there are currently 183 prisoners in custody associated with known criminal gangs, with 39 of those due for release in 2021. The Deputy will wish to note that this figure excludes the subversive prisoners in Portlaoise Prison.

Membership or allegiance of these criminal groups fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated on a daily basis. It is also the case that prisoners will not always declare their affiliation to certain groupings and it is therefore not possible to provide definitive numbers in relation to the number of known members of criminal groupings currently in custody. It should also be noted that more than one criminal gang may group together under the umbrella of a particular group and in some instances some gangs may form splinter groups due to family or in house disputes.

A suite of assessment and intervention pathways are available to violent offenders in prison to address dynamic risk factors known to be associated with violent offending, in order to reduce risk of re-offending and enhance public protection. This includes offence focused and/or mental health intervention by the IPS Psychology Service and/or Probation Service on an individual or group basis. All violent offenders with a sentence of over 2 years on committal are pro-actively targeted to assess and/or identify the clinical needs/risk factors that led to their offending. This includes those convicted of a gangland violence. In addition specialist programmes, including a gang desistance group, are currently being developed, which incorporates collaboration with men with a history of gang involvement in the development and facilitation of the programme.

A full range of policies, procedures and standard operating procedures are used by the IPS to identify, monitor and manage specific individuals. Management and staff have to ensure that the various factions are kept apart and, as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons.

Measures taken on a continuous basis include regular targeted searching; placement in high security locations; close supervision of all visits including the use of screened visits and the barring of certain visitors; the use of CCTV, metal detectors and mobile phone detectors; and the examination and monitoring of mail and telephone calls. The Operational Support Group has a core function to gather and collate intelligence information on criminal gang members in our prisons and to carry out intelligence led searches.

In addition, there is regular contact between the IPS and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues including the operation of criminal gangs and the release of prisoners who form part of these groupings.