I propose to take Questions Nos. 657 and 658 together.
Prisoner care and rehabilitation is a core aim of the Irish Prison Service. The Service tries to achieve a balanced approach in the effective performance of its care and custody functions and seeks to manage sentences in a way which encourages and supports prisoners in their efforts to live law abiding and purposeful lives on release.
I can inform the Deputy that various forms of rehabilitative training within the prison system continues to be made available to all prisoners, including first time offenders.
There is a wide range of rehabilitative programmes available in all prisons and to all prisoners. These include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, addiction counselling, welfare and spiritual services and are provided with the aim of offering purposeful activity to all those in custody while serving their sentences.
It may interest the Deputy to know that the Prison Psychology Service proactively target specific cohorts of prisoners including for example, violent offenders with over two year sentence, as well as 18-24 year olds in custody. Assistant Psychologists have been recruited since 2016 and their focus is primarily on mental health and sentence management work with prisoners. They are tasked with engaging and motivating this cohort of prisoners, who are committed to custody on a sentence of one year or more and who do not have a post-release supervision order to develop a sentence plan and to engage in appropriate interventions.
The Probation Service have joined this initiative by engaging in assessments with those 18-24 year olds who have post release supervision orders. The strategic objective to have a multi-agency approach to offender management and rehabilitation from pre to post imprisonment in order to reduce re-offending and improve prisoner outcomes, forms a central part of the Prison and Probation Service Joint Strategic Plan.
There is a clear commitment to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes. The Joint IPS/ETBI Education Strategy 2019 - 2021 sets out a commitment to the provision of broad based education provision and includes supporting integration and sentence planning. Education in prisons is delivered in partnership between the Education Training Boards and the IPS and a broad and flexible curriculum is provided. A top priority for the IPS is ensuring help for those with literacy problems, and to this end, peer mentoring programmes are currently active in all prisons.
The IPS has also been expanding the number of accredited courses and opportunities available to prisoners in Work Training in recent years. Enhanced partnership arrangements with accrediting bodies such as City and Guilds, the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers and Cleanpass and the centralising of coordination and quality assurance arrangements have enabled the IPS to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification to people in custody.
The guiding principles which underpin the prisons' work and training service are to make available work, work-training and other purposeful activities to all those in custody. Activities are chosen to give as much variety as possible and also to give opportunities to acquire practical skills which will help secure employment on release. Work Training Officers have been appointed and assigned to areas such as catering, laundry, industrial cleaning, industrial skills.
The Deputy may also be aware that I recently launched in the "Working to Change Social Enterprise Strategy - 2021-2023" which sets out my Department’s direction for supporting employment options for people with convictions by simultaneously working to remove the systemic barriers so that people can make sustainable changes. It builds upon a solid foundation of employment supports already in place across the criminal justice sector and is a collaboration between the Prison and the Probation Service and my Department. A copy of the Strategy can be found on the website of my Department at www.justice.ie.