Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 26 May 1970

Vol. 247 No. 1

Prisons Bill, 1970: Second Stage.

I move. "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The main object of the Bill is to give formal legal sanction to the "open" centre at Shanganagh, County Dublin, which was established in August, 1968. It was formerly Coláiste Moibhí and has extensive grounds. It is used for the accommodation of offenders either from St. Patrick's Institution, North Circular Road, Dublin, or from the prisons who seem likely to benefit from the conditions in operation there and who can thus be helped to become useful members of society. The whole atmosphere is based on trust. Movement about the house and grounds is not subject to close supervision. Games and recreation are adequately provided for. The youths sleep in unlocked dormitory cubicles. Letters and parcels are not opened; lengthy, unsupervised visits from parents and relatives are permitted and the staff wear ordinary clothes. The lack of formal restrictions is designed to foster a sense of responsibility and self-control. The number of youths in residence at any given time is small enough to make it possible for the staff to develop a reasonably close relationship with them. A house-mastering system operates under which certain officers accept special responsibility for groups of eight to ten youths. The object is to produce an atmosphere in which individual youths will be encouraged to discuss their problems with the officer concerned.

At times there has been difficulty in filling the available accommodation in Shanganagh owing to the lack of reliable material in St. Patrick's and the prisons. Not every prisoner has the basic stability to allow of his being sent to an open centre like Shanganagh. Careful selection beforehand is necessary in addition to a degree of supervision after arrival. The number of absconders since the centre was established has been quite low. Last year, for example, only seven out of 145 who were sent there absconded.

In the period immediately following the setting up of Shanganagh the main efforts were necessarily devoted to such matters as recruiting suitable staff, developing the necessary administrative facilities, establishing the broad features of the regime, clearing the ground and so on. Instruction in the three R's is given daily. A vocational teacher provides instruction in woodwork. An artisan officer is also responsible for this instruction and supervises in the woodworking shop and making of furniture for the centre and the execution of running repairs. A good deal of reconstruction has been carried out by the detainees. A painting, decorating and glazing shop has now been established and instruction in car maintenance and car driving will be given in the near future. Permanent workshops are expected to be erected by early next year.

A grading system has been introduced to provide incentives for the detainees and to reward their efforts rather than their accomplishments. Under this system marks are awarded at regular staff conferences for good conduct and industry and those who progress to the special grade receive additional privileges, such as extra home visits and attendance at football matches. The scheme has operated reasonably well so far. Another innovation has been the grant of a few days pre-discharge leave for longer term inmates. The leave is given at least a month before discharge to enable them to renew home contacts and to arrange for employment on release. It is of particular help to youths living outside Dublin. This concession, incidentally, has never been abused. Shanganagh is of course still at a developing stage and I shall not hesitate to introduce further departures from normal "prison" practice in the light of further experience if their adoption would be conducive to rehabilitation.

It is too early to attempt to assess the success of the Shanganagh experiment. Reconviction rates are being compiled but they will not have any real significance until figures for a minimum "follow up" period of two or three years become available. Apart from this, there are always limits to the extent to which reconviction rates can be reliably used to measure the results of particular forms of treatment. An offender who goes straight after release does not necessarily do so because of what happened to him while he was in custody and, on the other hand, just because an offender comes again before the courts it does not follow that he has gained no benefit from his treatment while in detention, especially when the reconviction is for a relatively minor or for an isolated offence. Moreover, in the case of Shanganagh in particular, it can be said that of necessity the offenders sent there are those who are more likely than the average prisoner to prove susceptible to reformative influences. But clearly the full potentialities of Shanganagh have not yet been realised and I expect to develop them a good deal further during the coming year.

To return to the Bill. The provisions relating to the setting up of Shanganagh are those in sections 2 to 5. Section 2 is the enabling section. It empowers the Minister for Justice to establish places of this kind with the object of promoting the rehabilitation of offenders. I may say that the provision of further places is not contemplated in the immediate future and certainly not an establishment of the size of Shanganagh. The provision is a very flexible one, however, and could be used for making available, say, a small house in the community where prisoners who had advanced to the stage of daily working release could be accommodated. A development of this kind was recently inaugurated in Britain on an experimental basis and is being at present assessed. I shall certainly consider a similar experiment here when the results of the assessment are available.

Sections 3 to 5 are consequential provisions and I do not think it necessary on this stage of the Bill to go into detail on them. Section 6 proposes to reduce the maximum age for persons who are remanded or committed to St. Patrick's Institution from 21 to 19. Under the present law offenders aged between 16 and 21 may be detained in St. Patrick's Institution. For some time past there has been a feeling that this age group, including as it does both young adolescents and experienced men, is too wide. As segregation is not possible in St. Patrick's, many of the young offenders are liable to come under the influence of some of these older inmates. I do not suggest that all inmates in the 19 to 21 group are in this category or, indeed, that the younger inmates are all inexperienced. In fact, some of the older inmates, especially those from country districts, are in many respects less sophisticated than the 16 and 17 year olds, almost all of whom have a number of previous convictions. Accordingly, though I am proposing that offenders in the 19-21 category who have to be sentenced to detention should now be committed to prison, I think it desirable to retain the power given by section 3 of the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, of transferring from prison into St. Patrick's offenders in the 19 to 21 group who might be with advantage detained in St. Patrick's Institution.

Here may I digress for a moment to fill in some of the background to St. Patrick's. It was formerly a borstal institution to which offenders could be sent for a minimum period of two years, with provision for their earlier release on licence depending on their progress while in detention. In 1956 the institution was transferred from Clonmel to Dublin, because of the decline in the number of youths receiving borstal-type sentences. It was located in portion of Mountjoy female prison which was adapted for that purpose. The practice had always been to transfer from prison to the institution suitable offenders under 21 who were serving relatively short sentences, where it was thought that this might be to their advantage.

After the transfer of the institution to Dublin the number of those transfers increased substantially and the institution took on more and more the character of a centre for the detention of young offenders serving short terms. This trend was accentuated by the passing of the Criminal Justice Act, 1960. That Act empowered the courts to commit offenders in the 16-21 age group directly to St. Patrick's. The borstal-type sentence of two years then rapidly fell into disuse and the number of direct committals to St. Patrick's of offenders serving varying terms increased consistently until in the last two years or so the institution has often been full to capacity. The extent of the change is shown by the figures. In 1957 the daily average in St. Patrick's was 58. Last year it was 195.

The growing pressure on accommodation made it necessary last year to encroach further on the cell accommodation remaining for the female prison. With numbers remaining consistently at such high levels, it is difficult to provide adequate space for workshops and other facilities. Some relief will be obtained when Mountjoy female prison is transferred to premises which it is proposed to erect on the site of the present place of detention at Marlborough House, Glasnevin. Marlborough House is expected to be closed this year on the opening of the new preventive centre at Finglas. The erection of a female prison, which will in any event take some years to complete, will still not leave sufficient space for workshops and other training facilities in St. Patrick's if the present daily averages of 200 or so continue. However, the effect of reducing the maximum age for committal, as proposed in section 6, will be to secure a reduction, in the short term at all events, in the present excessive population. I say "in the short term" advisedly because, having regard to world trends, it would be unwise to ignore the possibility of a further increase in juvenile crime. I propose, with this possibility in mind, to continue the search for a large enough site convenient to Dublin, where most of the youths in St. Patrick's reside, and suitable for a modern detention centre for young offenders. It goes without saying that the cost of such a centre would be extremely high.

In the meantime, a sustained effort is being made to improve the existing facilities. I expect to appoint a psychologist shortly, whose main task it will be to prepare and supervise an educational programme geared to the individual needs of each inmate. The assembly of electric lamps commenced last December. An additional welfare officer and a clerical assistant are being recruited to the staff of the institution and I expect a considerable improvement in the employment prospects of many of the inmates—so important for their rehabilitation—to result.

Deputies will notice that provision is made in subsection (1) of section 6 for the section to be brought into operation on a date to be appointed by order of the Minister for Justice. The reason for this is that the proposed reduction in the age of committal to St. Patrick's is likely to lead to an increase of 50 or so in the number of young offenders in Mountjoy. To maintain the requisite degree of segregation between these offenders and the adult prisoners some reconstruction will be required. It is necessary to defer the coming into operation of this section until the work has been completed, which is expected to be some time next year.

Section 7 is designed to relieve any overcrowding that may occur from time to time in St. Patrick's. As I have mentioned, overcrowding first manifested itself two years ago. Though it was relieved temporarily by the establishment of Shanganagh, the position continued to deteriorate until by early last year the institution was again regularly becoming full to capacity. It became necessary to release inmates temporarily before their normal date of discharge in order to make room for fresh committals. The overcrowding could not have been relieved by transferring some of the inmates to prison because, as the law stands, a person sentenced to detention in St. Patrick's cannot be transferred to prison unless he is found by the visiting committee to St. Patrick's to be incorrigible or to be exercising a bad influence on other inmates. Subsequently, the numbers in St. Patrick's dropped but they have again increased substantially. Section 7 therefore proposes to empower the Minister for Justice to transfer detainees from St. Patrick's to prison during periods of overcrowding. Deputies will notice that it is provided that the section shall not operate except during such periods as the Minister, after consultation with the visiting committee, specifies from time to time.

I think I have covered the main provisions of the Bill but if there are any particular aspects which Deputies would like me to clarify, I shall endeavour to do so when replying.

I should like to avail myself of the opportunity presented by the introduction of this Bill to review the present position in relation to the treatment of offenders and to look ahead at probable future developments. Before embarking on the review, however, I think I should make a few preliminary points about which I believe there is general agreement. First of all, there is no easy or generalised solution to the problem of rehabilitating offenders. Many of those committed to prison, even the youngest, come from home or environmental conditions which are themselves conducive to criminal behaviour. Many are of low intelligence and a high proportion are educationally backward. They are often emotionally disturbed and socially inadequate. The great majority are sentenced to very short terms. The average term spent in St. Patrick's, for example, is no more than four months. The first few weeks are usually spent in "settling down" and during the last few weeks the offender is naturally inclined to think mainly of his approaching release. These considerations make it particularly difficult to provide beneficial training in any depth and the position is aggravated by the fact that offenders are committed and discharged on widely different dates. Moreover, the environment of an insitution is basically unsuitable for encouraging individuals to become adequate and responsible members of normal society. It is an entirely artificial community and the high degree of uniformity which is unavoidable militates against the development of reponsibility and of a person's individual character.

It is against the background of these practical considerations that one must measure the possibilities of progress. Nonetheless, in the last decade substantial improvements have, in fact, been made. The Criminal Justice Act of 1960, which authorised the grant of temporary release, is rightly regarded as having initiated a most significant step forward. Used at the beginning mainly in compassionate cases such as those arising on death or injury of an immediate relative, the temporary release provisions have been increasingly availed of to a highly sophisticated degree to aid rehabilitation by releasing prisoners towards the end of their sentences to take up employment. The establishment of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders resulted in numerous reforms. The most notable were perhaps the appointment of prison welfare officers and the setting up of the corrective training unit and hostel in Mountjoy. The particular value of this committee was that it enabled the whole field of prevention of crime and treatment of offenders to be continuously appraised. It is this kind of continuous appraisal which in my opinion is necessary to keep conditions in this field in line with improving standards and informed opinion both within our our own community and internationally. This unobstrusive and unspectacular, but constant and critical, review has been maintained. A number of developments in the treatment of offenders in our penal institutions have been completed recently or are projected for completion in the near future and I shall mention the main ones, starting with those which concern the employment of prisoners.

The provision of suitable employment for persons in custody is, of course, one of special difficulty. Ideally, they should be given purposeful work suited to their individual capacities in conditions which will approximate to those in ordinary commercial employments. They should earn normal wages and their earnings should be used to maintain their dependants, pay for their own maintenance in prison and provide savings on discharge and, perhaps, a sum to be applied towards restitution in appropriate cases. For a variety of reasons this ideal situation has not been, and indeed cannot be, attained except, perhaps, in the wealthiest countries and then only with selected prisoners in specialised establishments. Many prisoners are unemployable by any commercial standard. Either they are simply disinclined to work or they have never been in regular employment or, very often, they lack the ability to adapt themselves to different work. The necessity to maintain security limits the kind of prisoners who can be employed in particular operations and affects also the lay-out of workshops, making it difficult to introduce modern manufacturing methods. The present gratuity paid to prisoners—7s a week—cannot be regarded as anything more than pocket money.

Because of the importance of employment and training as a factor in rehabilitation, special attention has been given to improving the present facilities in Mountjoy. Within recent months a training class in painting, wallpapering and glazing has been opened in the corrective training unit and is operating satisfactorily. After a short period of instruction the trainees are given work on the routine maintenance of the prison. A similar class is being provided in Shanganagh. Instruction in car driving and running repairs, which at present is given only in St. Patrick's, is being extended to Mountjoy and Shanganagh. Recently two further employments commenced in Mountjoy—rugmaking from remnants of sheepskins and slippermaking.

Perhaps the most potentially valuable development, however, is likely to result from a series of discussions with AnCO—the Industrial Training Authority—regarding the provision in our penal establishments of the most suitable training for industrial employment. At present active consideration is being given to proposals for three training courses. The first proposal is that training in semi-skilled metal work should be provided initially in Mountjoy and later for the younger offenders in St. Patrick's and Shanganagh though in a more limited way because of safety considerations. The proposed metal workshop would supply training in engineering skills (turning, milling, welding and grinding) of a semi-skilled nature. Another proposal is for a training course in site development for Shanganagh. This would cover such matters as trenching, drainage, surfacing, block laying and elementary building and would enable the boys to acquire a variety of constructional semi-skills in a short time. AnCO have also worked out a course in radio and television installation and the repair of common faults. The course has been specially designed for boys of low potential.

These are some of the principal projects in the employment field. These aspects of prisoner training will be further emphasised with the appointment of the psychologist who will be in a position to advise on the job attitudes of particular prisoners. The appointment of an additional welfare officer to St. Patrick's and of another to Mountjoy, with the necessary clerical assistance, and the introduction of welfare officers to Shanganagh, Portlaoise and Limerick will further improve the situation. I expect that the additional welfare officers and clerical assistants will have been recruited by the Civil Service Commissioners by the autumn. Already the contribution made by the present welfare officers is considerable and particularly in the provision of employment for suitable prisoners towards the end of their sentences. Last year, for example, 46 prisoners in Mountjoy were temporarily released to employment. The continued willingness of employers to take on prisoners depends to a great extent on the care spent beforehand in training and selecting prisoners who are likely to prove good and trustworthy employees. So far the conduct of prisoners who have been released to employment has, with a few exceptions, been quite satisfactory.

An extensive building and maintenance programme is in operation for the current year. The exercise yards in Mountjoy have been asphalted. The reception building there is scheduled for reroofing and for complete renovation this year. A new building will be needed to house the hospital and psychiatric unit so as to make room for the additional young offenders who, as I mentioned earlier, are likely to be committed to Mountjoy when the age limit to St. Patrick's is reduced under the provisions of section 6 of this Bill. In Limerick, the female officers' quarters will be demolished and replaced. In Portlaoise the recreation hall, which was extensively damaged during the rioting on 31st December last, is being restored. In Shanganagh, training workshops are scheduled for erection this year at the back of the main building. These will provide facilities for instruction in metal work and plumbing, car maintenance and repair, electronics, building construction and painting, papering and glazing.

I should like now to refer to the prison diet. I may say, at the outset, that I am satisfied that the present diet is wholesome and nourishing. It is of good quality and adequate in quantity. As Deputy Tunney, who is a member of the Visiting Committee in St. Patrick's Institution, said in this House last December, it is as good as that received by many a breadwinner in our community. Nonetheless it must be conceded that it is monotonous. The diet has been receiving particular attention in recent times and a number of improvements have been made. For example, in Mountjoy a bread slicing machine has been installed and heated food trolleys have been provided to keep the mid-day meal warm. The diet itself has been improved in a number of minor respects. Financial provision has been made this year for other improvements in the diet and the report of a dietician on the present diet is at present being examined. The kitchen equipment in all prison establishments during the present year will be extensively improved. In particular deep friers will be installed so that chips can be prepared and fish introduced into the diet.

The training of prison officers has also been receiving attention. Recently this training has been integrated with the general scheme for training operated under the supervision of the training officer for the Department of Justice. So far some 50 prison officers have been included in various courses. A suitable basic training course for recruit prison officers is being prepared and in this connection I have arranged for this officer to visit Britain to study the training for basic prison staff provided there. A course for the officers in Shanganagh is being arranged with the Department of Psychology, UCD. It will deal with the particular problems of young offenders. Other courses of this kind are proposed for officers in St. Patrick's Institution. I do not exclude the possibility of providing pre-service training for prison officers but normally prison officers are recruited in small numbers at irregular intervals and this makes the organisation of pre-service training impracticable except at extravagant cost.

Here may I say that the quality of any service is only as good as that of the people who provide it. The prison service is no exception. It requires of the staff qualities of sympathy and understanding and, where necessary, firmness and control. I believe our service has these qualities to a high degree and I shall endeavour to promote training schemes to develop them to the greatest practicable extent. The loyalty and discipline of the service was impressively shown towards the end of last year when disturbances occurred in Mountjoy and Portlaoise and I am happy to pay tribute here to all the officers concerned some of whom were injured.

Improvements in the administrative efficiency of the prison service have followed the recent setting up of a working group of governers and headquarters officers. The group have also the task of modernising the existing rules and regulations relating to prisons and the accounting instructions but, up to the present, they have concentrated mainly on the co-ordination of efforts to improve the functioning of the service in several important and practical respects.

Last year the Catholic chaplaincy services to the Dublin prisons and institutions was reorganised. A full-time head chaplain was appointed and also a full-time residential chaplain in Shanganagh. Last year, too, arrangements were made for clerical students from All Hallows, as part of their pastoral training, to visit Mountjoy regularly and to assist the head chaplain. We also have, of course, part-time Church of Ireland and Presbyterian chaplains. Whenever we have prisoners of other religions, their spiritual needs are catered for by visits from ministers of the religions concerned.

So far I have been dealing with institutional forms of treatment of offenders. The non-institutional forms, of which probation and after-care are the principal ones, have come into greater prominence in recent times, partly because of a feeling that first offenders, particularly in the younger age groups, should not normally be sentenced to detention and partly, perhaps, because the difficulties in the way of rehabilitation by institutional methods have become more widely recognised.

Last year the existing probation and after-care service was thoroughly investigated. As a result of that investigation I am satisfied that the service is inadequate and that it needs to be expanded considerably and thoroughly reorganised. The expansion will call for a big increase in the present staff in Dublin and for an extension of the official probation and after-care service to the country generally. New senior supervisory posts will be created and extra clerical assistance provided to improve the efficiency of the service.

A substantial increase in the number of welfare officers assigned to the prisons, St. Patrick's and Shanganagh, is also necessary and I have already given details of the additional appointments being made in these establishments. I attach great importance to a recommendation in the report of the investigation that a central headquarters should be provided for the Dublin service which will be reasonably convenient to the courts and have proper equipment and amenities for interviewing clients in private.

Notwithstanding that the existing Dublin probation service is understaffed, I would not feel justified in appointing the full total of additional probation officers in Dublin until proper office accommodation has been provided for them. Arrangements to provide this accommodation are now in train. In the meantime, the Civil Service Commissioners are being asked to recruit as soon as possible an additional eight welfare officers and four clerical assistants and I am having a senior welfare officer appointed to the Dublin probation service.

I must emphasise that these appointments are being used as an interim measure pending the provision of proper accommodation in Dublin for the probation officers and that I propose that by next year the existing staff of Dublin probation officers will be increased from six to 13, with eight additional officer doing probation and prison welfare work in the provinces. I have strengthened the headquarters staff in my Department to undertake the reorganisation and expansion of the service.

In the course of reorganising the probation and after-care service, I expect that every effort will be made to utilise voluntary workers to the fullest extent, subject to their being carefully selected and to their working under the supervision of the official welfare officers. I attach a great deal of importance to the involvement of volunteers in the work of rehabilitating offenders. Neither now nor in the foreseeable future can the community afford to put on a paid service to the extent that would be utilised if it were there.

Apart altogether from this consideration, it would be unwise not to use the services of dedicated persons in the community who are prepared to devote some of their time and talents to this form of social work. The value of volunteers has been increasingly recognised by probation officers in Britain and there are now over 1,200 working actively in conjunction with the probation and after-care service.

An excellent example of voluntary initiative in the field of after-care was the establishment last year of prisoners aid through community effort which is undertaking the running at Coolock, County Dublin, of what is usually described as a half-way house for prisoners who are homeless on discharge. An indication of the State's interest and support for this voluntary project is the provision of £4,000 in the current year's Vote towards the cost of reconstruction and adaptation.

As part of the reorganisation of the probation and after-care service, therefore, I look forward to a sustained effort to enlist all the resources of voluntary effort in the community in the work of rehabilitation and I propose, in particular, to develop a close liaison between all the various agencies involved. Already a number of voluntary bodies, but particularly two praesidia of the Legion of Mary in Dublin, are rendering valuable service on the probation side; and the Guild of St. Philip in Dublin and the Conference of St. Dominic in Cork, together with the Protestant Discharged Prisoners Aid Association, are doing equally valuable work in the field of after-care.

A problem that is occupying the attention of the Minister for Health and myself at present is the provision to be made for mentally disturbed people, particularly adolescents, who have in many cases come into conflict with the law. Some of them are drug abusers. The provision of suitable institutional accommodation for them presents serious practical difficulties. There is also the problem, which is the subject of public comment from time to time, of the absence of any arrangements for the detention of known aggressive psychopaths on discharge from prison. A characteristic of this form of mental illness is that the people concerned are superficially quite normal and may remain so for long periods.

In addition, there are a number of aspects of the operation of the present law relating to what are called "criminal lunatics" which appear to be in need of amendment. Accordingly, discussions are taking place with the Department of Health on the question of setting up a committee, representative of the Government Departments and other authorities concerned, to make an immediate study of these problems and suggest appropriate steps to deal with them. I expect that an announcement will be made on the matter at an early date.

Finally, I should like to say that I hope that what I have said will indicate that within our limited resources we are making a sustained effort to maintain our system for the treatment of offenders in line with acceptable international standards and with what we ourselves regard as consistent with the requirement of upholding each prisoner's dignity as a human person. If the results from time to time appear disappointing and meagre, this is not necessarily due to any fault in our particular methods. It is the lot of prison administrations everywhere and we can only do our best.

One thing, however, is clear to me and that is the need for having the maximum co-operation between all community agencies concerned in social work and education so that the conditions which breed crime are alleviated and the problem tackled at the pre-prison stage. I propose therefore to pay a good deal of attention to improving liaison between Government Departments, local authorities and voluntary organisations operating in this field with a view to ensuring the best use of the resources we have available for this purpose.

I commend the Bill to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.

(Cavan): I should like to avail of this opportunity to congratulate Deputy O'Malley on his elevation to the position of Minister for Justice and to express the hope that his short stay there may be happy and fruitful. He has taken over this very onerous position at a very critical time in the crime history of the State.

We have very unsettled conditions, restless conditions: the nation is perturbed by crime of all descriptions, ranging from armed bank robberies resulting in the death of police officers, to what might be regarded as less serious offences, such as sit-in protests, fish-in protests, protests of one sort or another. I do not intend to dwell on this at any length but I think the toleration of the taking over of public or private buildings, whether as sit-ins under the auspices of cultural or architectural activities or sit-ins in protest against lack of housing or fish-ins as a national protest is nothing short of tolerating anarchy and can lead only to total disrespect for the law and to the common commission of more serious acts of violence. It is bound to generate disrespect for the law and for public and private property. I hope that the Minister, in entering his office, will tackle these problems as they should be tackled because they have been overlooked and tolerated for too long.

The Bill we are dealing with this evening is the Prisons Bill, 1970. Really there are only two provisions in it. One is for the establishment of places other than prisons to help in the rehabilitation of persons serving prison sentences or sentences of detention in St. Patrick's Institution; the other provision is to reduce the upper age limit qualifying for detention in St. Patrick's Institution from 21 years to 19 years of age. This is a Bill with which the Minister comes to the House seeking a blank cheque to do certain things, but he does not write into the Bill how he proposes to do them.

The provisions of the Bill will be operated by regulations made by the Minister. I am against that although I will concede that there is a stronger argument for it in a Bill of this kind than there might be in many other Bills. Nevertheless, I do not think that we can do more than approve of the Bill in principle having listened to the Minister's statement as to what he proposes to do.

In so far as the provision of accommodation is concerned, it would appear from the Minister's opening remarks that it is not intended to provide any further accommodation at the moment. The idea apparently is to regularise Shanganagh as a place of alternative accommodation. In principle, I agree with the proposals put forward in the Bill. I consider it a good idea to reduce the upper age limit in St. Patrick's from 21 to 19 years because by the time young men reach the age of 21 years, particularly in conditions obtaining nowadays, they are far removed from what might be described as people of tender age or amateurs in the context which has brought them into St. Patrick's.

The Minister justifiably did not have much to say about the provisions of the Bill but dealt with prison conditions, probation and after-care. We are all agreed that the emphasis nowadays and in the years ahead must be on the effort to rehabilitate rather than to punish. The old approach of punishing the person as severely as possible in an effort to prevent him from committing further crime should not be used other than as a last resort, if at all. As the Minister has said, usually most of these young people who actually commit crime do so through no fault of their own. The offences are committed due to lack of proper family background, because of drunkenness in the home, because of long spells of unemployment or of parental neglect. Every effort should be made to reform these young people and to direct them on proper lines before we set out to punish them and to treat them as criminals.

During the years our record on the question of probation and after-care certainly has not been a credit to the country and to successive Governments. The probation system was introduced here by the British Government in 1907 and even at that time they realised that an effort should be made to reform offenders. However, we are still operating the Probation Act of 1907 without any real modification or any updating. On the other hand, the probation system in Great Britain was modified in 1948, in 1961 and in 1968 by different Acts of Parliament.

The former Minister for Justice told me in February of this year that he had received a report on probation and after-care in July, 1969, and he said that report recommended an extension of those services in addition to the recruitment of probation and prison welfare officers. However, the former Minister went on to state that there was a considerable financial implication involved and that it required the fullest investigation. The present Minister seems to be more optimistic regarding the future of the probation system.

It is accepted that there are only six probation officers for the entire city of Dublin and that is regarded as totally inadequate. We also have the absurd position that these probation officers are only available to the metropolitan district courts, which courts do not cater for the housing estates built on the outskirts of the city. Therefore, if a young person from one of those housing estates is unfortunate enough to be brought before the courts on a criminal charge he is not tried in the Children's Court at Dublin Castle but is tried in a court where a probation officer is not available. If the young person concerned lives in the city of Dublin he is tried in Dublin Castle and the district justice can put him on probation, under the care of a probation officer.

It is long past time that we reviewed the probation system and provided adequate staff. The Minister has said that even if he had the necessary finance he would not provide the staff because there was not sufficient office accommodation at the moment. The Minister has said he will not provide the staff until he can provide proper offices near the courts. I do not think probation officers require large offices in order to deal with their charges; as a matter of fact it would be better if the probation officers visited their charges in their own homes. I do not see how offices can provide any problem.

I am very interested in the welfare of prisoners and the after-care of prisoners. Most institutions are completely understaffed so far as welfare officers are concerned. If my information is correct St. Patrick's which is the institution transferred from Clonmel, catering for young people up to the age of 21—and when the Bill is passed up to the age of 19—has one welfare officer and Shanganagh, which was established in recent times to deal with young people about to be released, does not even have one welfare officer. One would think it was imperative to have welfare officers in Shanganagh. I realise the Minister is not to blame for this because he has only recently taken over his portfolio but I hope he will rectify the situation.

I think the real reason for this Bill is the overcrowding in St. Patrick's. Certainly, the Minister has been candid about the overcrowding and his information corroborates the information which I have about overcrowding there. Due to overcrowding many offenders who are released before the expiry of their sentences, even taking account of remission for good conduct, come under Garda notice again. I concede that even if they had done their full term they may have come under Garda notice, but it is a fair criticism to make that they should not have been let out prematurely just because there was no place to house them until the authorities were satisfied that they were fit to be released.

I understand a number of youths in St. Patrick's were transferred to the female portion of Mountjoy. The portion of Mountjoy in which these young offenders are housed is divided from the portion still occupied by female prisoners by a wooden partition or wall which is not soundproof. There is no need for me to tell the Minister, if that is in fact the situation, that it is undesirable both from the phychological point of view and from a moral point of view. I do not know whether or not the Minister admits that is the position but that is my information. In fairness to the Minister I should say that he has dealt with most of the points which need to be tackled and I hope he will do something about them.

The Minister has conceded that the training given to prison officers is inadequate. He has told us, if I understood him correctly, that he proposes sending some new recruits to Great Britain for training. In Britain a new recruit to the prison service is fully trained before he is regarded as a prison officer. He is given a month's trial first of all to assess his suitability for the position; he is assessed by psychologists in order to see if he is temperamentally suitable for the position. That is very necessary for this sort of work because it requires great patience, great humanity, great tolerance and a generally suitable make-up.

Having gone through that assessment he is sent to a training centre for three months; after the three months training he is returned to the prison proper for a further two months training there; and he then goes back to the training centre for a final month's training. I understand they are not satisfied with that position. They also have refresher courses for prison officers.

The Minister seems to think because of the small number taken in that it would be either a waste of money or extravagant, but I think it is absolutely essential that our prison personnel should be properly trained and not merely regarded as jailers or people whose duty it is to keep in the people sent to them. We are asking too much of our prison officers. My understanding of the situation here is that prison officers do an examination of primary school certificate standard and they are recruited on the strength of that. They are immediately given a uniform, they are interviewed by the governor, they are then given a list of rules—I hope I will be pardoned for being crude—and a bunch of keys and they are then regarded as being prison officers. It is unreasonable to expect people with that limited amount of training to discharge difficult duties. I suppose the mystery of it is that they do so well and that we have so few disturbances in our prisons. No doubt, that is a reflection of the Irish temperament and the quality of the people who have been recruited but in this day and age when the emphasis should be on reform and rehabilitation these officers should get a far more extensive training.

When we talk about after-care we seem to refer to it in relation to the city of Dublin. I imagine there are more offenders in built-up areas than in country areas but let us take the case of a young man who comes before the district court on a few occasions and is given the Probation Act. Up till recently I had as much experience in these rural district courts as most people in my profession and most of the district justices operated the probation system well without probation officers. Certainly, they were not slow to give the Probation Act and give it again and again—they probably overworked the Act a bit—but when a young fellow gets the Probation Act a few times and then gets six months, what future is there for him in a rural town? After he is released, I am afraid his chances of getting employment are very, very slender.

I am afraid that private employers are slow to employ such a man and very, very often he takes the boat, crosses the water, and either makes good, if he is lucky, or embarks on major crime, if he is not lucky. We should have an after-care service to deal with these people in their own localities. The only way in which to reform someone who has fallen foul of the law and has spent six months in prison is by convincing him that he is still a member of society and that there is a place for him in society. He must be convinced that he is not something for the scrapheap, something unemployable, and the only way in which to convince him of that is by providing him with employment in his own locality. Most people will agree with me when I say that these unfortunate people find it very difficult, if not impossible, to get employment in provincial towns and in rural areas. I throw out once again the suggestion that the State and local authorities have an obligation to these people. Between them they form the biggest employers of labour in the country. They spend our rates and our taxes. I believe they could employ these people under proper supervision and that would be one way of convincing them that there is a place for them in our society and that they are not utter rejects.

The Minister mentioned PACE. I should like to join with him in complimenting this voluntary organisation —Prisoners Aid through Community Effort—and I believe it was because of lack of professional assistance for prisoners that this body was established. Those who have taken an interest in this very worthwhile and charitable work are to be congratulated. They deserve the thanks of all of us.

The Minister dealt with the drug problem in a rather passing way. One of the major defects so far as drug addiction is concerned is the absence of an adequate institution in which to treat drug addicts. Most of these people are young and they are not fit subjects for a mental hospital. Neither are they fit subjects for a prison. The young drug addict is a very sick person. He really cannot help himself. His craving for drugs must be met and the only way to cure him is by treating him in some institution specially designed for that purpose. If the young drug addict finds himself in a mental institution when he comes to he will immediately rebel. He will be equally angry if he finds himself in Mountjoy or St. Patrick's. Those who take drugs are more to be pitied than abused. Through no fault of their own they start on this habit-forming practice. The Minister has power under this Bill to establish an institution, other than a prison or mental hospital, in which to treat drug addicts. Such an institution should be divorced entirely from prison. It should be a small medical unit.

Drug addiction is not yet a major problem but it is a bigger problem than the ex-Minister's predecessor thought it was two or three years ago. If there was a small institution in which drug addicts could be treated and reformed that would be a very good thing. They could either go there voluntarily or they could be committed for treatment. The problem must be tackled. It cannot be put on the long finger. The facilities must be provided at once.

As I said at the outset, this is an enabling Bill except for the section reducing the age from 21 to 19. I trust the Minister agrees by and large with the views I have expressed on the Bill. There is just one thought that strikes me: has Mountjoy outlived its usefulness? Is it out of date? The area it covers is pretty extensive and as a site it must be exceedingly valuable. Perhaps the time has come when we should consider the establishment of a modern prison on the outskirts of the city or in one of the neighbouring counties. Apparently there is an argument for having a prison near the capital city. I do not know what it would cost but I should say the amount of money that could be obtained for the site would go a long way towards the provision of a modern place of detention. I agree with this Bill in principle.

I should like to join with Deputy Fitzpatrick in congratulating the Minister on his appointment as Minister for Justice. I wish him well in this post. While I congratulate him I feel like commiserating with him at the same time because he is going into the Department at a time when very frightening responsibilities will be his and when, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say, a wrong decision by him could lead to dreadful consequences throughout the country. For that reason he will need a great deal of luck and I wish him that luck in his task.

Without at all wishing to be taken as being personally opposed to his predecessor as an individual I must confess to being glad that he is no longer Minister for Justice because I think his approach to these matters— I do not propose to pursue the topic— was certainly not one with which I could have much sympathy. I wonder to what extent the opening speech was the Minister's predecessor's and to what extent he himself made his own imprint on it. I am in no way denigrating the present Minister or seeking to do so.

It is difficult to know whether there has been any fundamental change in the Department of Justice in regard to its attitude to criminality, criminology or penology and the approach to the youth prisons in our society. Deputy Fitzpatrick suggested that it would be desirable to get rid of Mountjoy Prison and sell the site. He has a good point there because no matter who tries to do anything with Mountjoy, like so many of these old institutions such as county homes and mental hospitals, he cannot hope to succeed. No laws we pass here, even with the best will in the world on the part of the personnel involved, would change those dreadful places to anything other than what they were intended to be, punitive, soul-destroying, demoralising institutions intended to humiliate and degrade anybody going into them. I think the only solution to Mountjoy is to give the Minister a present of a fleet of bulldozers to get rid of it and start from the ground up.

Even before one tries to do that one must come back to the question of the basic attitude to criminality. Whether one looks at the so-called criminal as a person who must be punished or a person who must be rehabilitated is a vital consideration and I think the present Minister appears to lean towards the generally-held thesis in more advanced and sophisticated societies and communities now that punitive treatment of the prisoner is virtually a complete waste of money, even if it were not in conflict, as I believe, with many of our basic Christian professions about the wrong-doer. The last thing that seems to enter into the considerations of the judiciary or the Department of Justice in charge of prisons is the concept embodied in the exhortation: "He who amongst you is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

Most of those people who end up in our prisons are people who are unhappy and unfortunate and suffering from personality disorders, emotionally-disturbed people. They end up in that condition largely because of certain environmental factors over which they have little or no control.

Strangely, we accept without question that the good home and good family environment are likely to produce the well-integrated and balanced end product, the young adult, in later life. We expect a good environment to turn out a good end product but we do not quite so readily accept the fact that the converse, the disturbed or broken home, drunken parents, divorced parents, the institutional life, illegitimacy, desertion are virtually insuperable obstacles to the creation of a balanced individual in society. The likelihood of such a person ending up in a jail of one kind or another is infinitely greater than in the case of a child fortunate enough to be brought up in a stable environment.

Because that is fairly well established now and generally accepted by psychologists and psychiatrists I find it impossible to take anything but a compassionate approach to the so-called criminal. It is so easy for those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up in reasonably stable surroundings that it is no credit to us that we became reasonably stable adults. These others are people who are punished by society largely because of defects in their environment which were nearly always adult-created. The broken home, the quarrelling, the drunkenness, the institutional life, the divorce, the illegitimacy or desertion are all factors which are adult-created and which, acting on the infant or young person, result in their being so disturbed as to eventually come into conflict with society and conflict with society leads to prison.

What I should like to see would be a complete change in the attitude of our Department of Justice, on the part of the judiciary, the Garda and all those concerned with this whole problem of criminality in society. I am not suggesting for one moment that it is possible to ignore the fact that there are people who, because of many factors—the ones I have mentioned are only some of them; others are genetic predisposition, chromosomal characteristics, various changes which one can see in electro encephalograms and so on, all the factors over which the individual has no control but all producing the him—act in a deviant way, an anti-social manner. I am not suggesting that one can allow those persons free in society. Society also has rights and we have got to preserve and protect them.

I am simply suggesting that, where it is decided to isolate the individual for the sake of the preservation of society and the furtherance of its welfare, this shall not be done at all in a punitive way but in the same way as a sick person is put into hospital and treated and cared for until he is well again. I know that is asking a lot because, strangely enough, we believe in a punitive approach to the obtaining of conformism in our society and in establishing what we call discipline and maintaining discipline. It is one of the examples of dual thinking there is in our society.

The two dynamics for changing an individual are to me punishment or love and understanding and tolerance. The one used predominantly here, the one most of us believe in, is the punitive one. It is the one most of us suffered under in our schools and colleges and yet the one which the Christian church professes is the dynamic of love. It is not seen practically anywhere in the whole fabric of our culture here in Ireland. In our dealings with one another we are very aggressive, very punitive, very oppressive, very authoritarian. There is a basic conflict. I know I am in a minority in holding my views on that but I am in a minority again, as happened so frequently before here, in Ireland only. In most of the more advanced societies, in the Scandinavian society, Holland and so on, in parts of the United States and some of the Communist countries, there is this rather more understanding approach to the whole psychodynamics of crime and the criminal.

As long as that conflict is there naturally it will determine the decision of the Minister in his approach to this complicated problem. For a very short time I had control of a prison. As Minister for Health, peculiarly enough, I had control of Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum as it was known at the time. One of the first things I had great pleasure in doing was to change that to the Central Mental Hospital. I then changed many of the provisions relating to prison clothes, recreation and films. I altered the whole approach to the place as best I could in the very short time I was there. This was 20 years ago. I suppose it shows I had not started really thinking about these things at that time but I have thought about this problem for a very long time.

This is completely non-political and therefore I am sure the Minister will appreciate that I am putting forward these suggestions so that he will give them some thought. I know that all our backgrounds—his background, my background and the background of the people on the Fine Gael benches— are identical. We all come from a culture which, despite its Christian professions, believes in the old Judaic or biblical eye for an eye philosophy in our approach to the treatment of criminals. Incidentally, I think it is wrong of me to say that it is the old Judaic law. It was never, in fact, implemented. My Jewish friends tell me the approach to the treatment and care of the criminal according to the old Jewish code was always the principle of compensation. The criminal had to compensate for whatever crime he committed. That we have, to a certain extent of course, in the fines system.

Broadly speaking, the attitude of the average judge lecturing the average unfortunate person in the box is that he has committed a crime and he must pay the penalty for that crime. Only someone in a position as powerful and influential as the Minister's can bring about new thinking or a new approach to this whole question of the treatment of prisoners. One of the things that always surprised me—I suppose I am continually being surprised—was that this Dáil had a series of Ministers who were what you might call distinguished jail birds in their time—and I do not mean that at all disrespectfully; quite the contrary—men who for very good reason had spent a long time in jail and very honourably in jail but few of them, who must have known what the inside of a jail was like as few of us do, took up the matter when they got into power and became Ministers. I am referring to both sides of the House. Few of them applied their own personal inside knowledge and showed the House how stupid and futile and degrading is the whole principle of locking up people and how utterly sterile it is and unproductive of any change. It is quite valueless from the point of view of the individual and from the point of view of society. Few of them took the opportunity to introduce changes which were needed.

I know Portlaoise jail. I was down there many years ago. Unless it has changed, it is a dreadful place. It is just a series of cages. It is an appalling sight to see people there. It represents degradation to everybody concerned. I have been in Mountjoy Prison visiting friends who found their way in there in one way or another. It too is a dreadful place. I do not think any Bill in this House would change it in a fundamental way. The general thesis seems to be to lock the person up in a blind futile sort of way, a blind angry sort of way, without making any attempt to find out why that person found his way there. Why him and not me? It could so easily be.

With regard to the matter of the aggressive psychopath, I trust the Minister will discuss with the Minister for Health, Deputy Childers, the appointment of a director of forensic psychiatry. Such an appointment is very necessary. The Minister may not know that a very distinguished Irishman who has been away from this country for a long time might come back to Ireland; he is one of the great authorities on this question. There are some silly bureaucratic administrative difficulties—something to do with British superannuation being taken up and accepted here, and so on. Anyhow, the difficulties are not sufficiently important to deny this country the invaluable services of this man, and the opportunity of having access to one of the finest minds on this subject, so far as the organisation of a modern forensic psychiatric service is concerned.

In the particular problem with which the Minister is largely dealing in this Bill—the St. Patrick's aspect of it, in any event—it is a fact that the care of the psychopath is particularly difficult. Virtually nobody has the answer. There are people who find it very difficult to work with a psychopath patient. Psychopaths are a particularly unrewarding sector of society. Nobody has yet found a solution to their problem.

In his speech, the Minister deals with the aggressive psychopath and the provision of the St. Patrick's type of accommodation for that patient. A recent paper by Dr. Stewart Whitley, a very experienced psychiatrist working in this specialty—he worked at a very famous place called the Henderson Institute outside London at which this other Irish doctor has been for the past 15 to 20 years—points out that the aggressive psychopath is the person who gets the least benefit from the stimulating permissive type of institution which I think the Minister has in mind in the Shanganagh institution or St. Patrick's. The aggressive psychopath is very nearly an impossible case altogether. The kind of person with whom I think the Minister is probably more concerned is the creative psychopath who responds to this kind of stimulating and permissive environment.

Therefore, before the Minister progresses very much farther with his plans, it would be worth his while to look into the whole matter of the structure of any environment he has in mind for the treatment of these kinds of patients. There are three different kinds of psychopath—the inadequate psychopath, the aggressive psychopath and the creative psychopath. The milieu in which each of these is treated is completely useless to the other type of patient. I trust the Minister will give the matter very much more thought. I hope he will have the advantage of the expert advice to which I have referred, and in relation to which the Minister for Health may help him, before he comes to formulate any final plans for St. Patrick's or Shanganagh House.

I get the impression that what has happened in relation to Shanganagh is that we have this extraordinary overcrowding in St. Patrick's— the figures 58, 57 to 195, nearly 200: an astonishing increase in the occupancy in St. Patrick's. If the former Minister for Justice, Deputy Moran, were introducing this Bill I might be inclined to say that what happened was that they got so overcrowded there that they are reducing the age limit to 19 and using Shanganagh as an overflow for St. Patrick's. I should like to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt and to accept that he is intent upon and is trying to make some serious contribution to this problem. Prima facie, I get the impression that Shanganagh came in handy and it was decided to transfer some of these people from St. Patrick's there. Everybody will be relieved to know that the Minister is interested in this problem—the judiciary, the Garda, probation officers. All the psychiatric institutions will be more than delighted that some attempt is being made to deal with this very difficult and intractable problem in the only kind of environment in which it can be handled. Except in certain custodian prisons or mental hospitals, these patients are virtually impossible to deal with. Therefore, we certainly welcome the proposals.

I am glad that something is to be done in regard to the probation service. Some people think that all that happens when a person gets off on probation is that he gets a warning from the judge or the justice and is then let off scot free. That is not true, of course. What happens is the probation officer must try to establish some sort of relationship with the individual. There is usually a suspended sentence given and the probation officer—of which there are only three or four in the city of Dublin—is then given the responsibility of trying to establish some sort of relationship with the young person or adult as the case may be. It is a very enlightened and civilised way of dealing with some people who offend against the social mores in our society—the young offender, the juvenile or, in some cases, the adult first offender.

I have the greatest sympathy for a number of the probation officers whom I know because of the completely heart-breaking conditions under which they have been forced to work for many years, not only physically, as the Minister now recognises, but also because of the accommodation they have, the lack of any kind of support services at all and, above all, because they have found themselves without any professional help. One finds them frequently coming to mental hospitals begging us to take somebody in and quite often in a humanitarian way to try to prevent a youngster going to prison. Of course, we on our side do not particularly want to deal with this kind of person because the psychiatric hospitals are not designed for them and so they are left with the person on their hands without any support from any of us. I am glad to hear there is an attempt to be made to increase the staff of the probation officers and to provide them with proper support, care and help.

The Minister did not mention, in relation to Shanganagh, why it is that there appears to be no psychiatric supervision of the institution. It follows from my concept of crime that in some cases the person's, let us call them, criminal tendencies may be ameliorated, may be helped. In some cases nothing can be done. Whitley refers to something like 40 per cent of these people who did not come back to the Henderson Institution but it is a very difficult problem to assess. One does not really talk about cure rates. No reconviction two, three, four or five years after discharge is about the only way one can broadly go on.

The Minister said in his speech that careful selection beforehand is necessary in addition to a degree of supervision after arrival and the number of absconders since the centre was established has been quite low. I wonder what he means by "quite low"? It is yet a bit early for him to say whether their being in Shanganagh has made any difference to them. More important still, what system of selection has been established and what specialist advice did he have in making this system of selection? This is a particularly intricate problem as I have just said. The type of person he is talking about, the aggressive psychopath, should not really be sent to Shanganagh according to pretty expert findings on this. Who made the selection of these people who went from St. Patrick's to Shanganagh and on what grounds did they make their particular selection? In this kind of institution there should be not only psychiatrists but also psychologists and probation officers as a liaison with the Garda as well as the various forms of training facilities, job placement officers and then the different outlets for these individuals in the particular institution. If the Minister is serious about this problem he will have to see that the institution is properly staffed because he is dealing with a particularly dangerous problem and it cannot be done except by people who have a very long training in this whole specialty.

If one accepts that the role of a probation officer is a particularly important one then we come to a problem in our Irish courts in which the information about the individual is only made available to the justice after conviction. The justice in any case at present is in an almost impossible position. It is the crudest form of justice imaginable, that which is available to us in our courts, if one takes as one's yardstick the approach in, say, Holland where there is an assessment by probation officers of the environmental conditions of the person appearing before the court—that is the upbringing, family background, schooling, economic circumstances, job opportunities, training, skill and the whole environment which created this particular person and led him to find himself in court.

That information is simply the case history any conscientious psychiatrist must have before he can give any evaluation at all of the severity of a particular emotional disturbance and, what is more important, before he can give any vague—I emphasise the word "vague"—idea as to how long it will take to help this particular person in a therapeutic way, to make him well again. More often than not it is impossible to say. The justice sees a boy or girl in the dock and is told by a garda that he or she was found doing something and he then has to say to himself: "What sentence should I give this young person?" Then it is three months, six months or nine months in St. Patrick's. It is more than likely he knows very little about St. Patrick's or the conditions to which he is sending that boy. I do not wish him any disrespect. I do not know if many of them know of the conditions under which people are treated.

I am talking from the therapeutic point of view. I am not being critical of the place at all. I am asking whether there will be the kind of care which the justice thinks could help this particular individual. How many justices approach cases in that way? Surely it should be their primary function to try to decide: "How do I help this person not to appear before me any more?". It is a question of the most extraordinary complexity. Even if the justice had a psychiatrist sitting on each side of him and had all the information which I talked about from the probation officer, who finds out the history of the person and how he got to the court, it would be extraordinarily difficult for any human being to say that a person should have three months, six months or nine months in a particular milieu and that this would lead to this person's never coming back into court, or unlikely to come back into court again.

There is no attempt to approach the problem of crime in Ireland for the young adolescent, male or female, in this way. Even with a detailed history, with psychological assessment, personality assessment, vocational guidance and all the information which social workers can put at our disposal in dealing with this type of adolescent delinquent or personality problem, it is virtually impossible for even the most experienced psychiatrist to say: "This person will benefit from this particular treatment and will be a better person at the end of it".

One can see the appalling cruelty of the whole judicial system in relation to criminality generally. Our attitudes have changed over the years. They have changed very slowly and minimally. Our attitude to the alcoholic has changed. We now understand he is a sick person and he is quite rightly accepted as sick. On the whole, our attitude to the drug addict is almost reasonably civilised. Our general attitude to drug addicts is that they are unhappy, unfortunate people who are emotionally disturbed and that there should be no question of punishing them at all. Perhaps they should be isolated from society, if this has to be done, in the interests of society and in their own interests, but this should not be done in a punitive way.

We have accepted that capital punishment was not a deterrent and we have a reasonably civilised approach to capital punishment. Our attitude is not ideal but it is reasonably good. I remember when people who attempted to commit suicide had to appear in the witness box and explain why they had decided to take their lives. Such people do not appear in court now. They are treated for their emotional disturbances. I would like to see that general approach in relation to the understanding of emotional behaviour problems translated into reality in enactments such as this which relate to crime and to the so-called criminal. I may be moving a little bit too fast, but Deputy O'Malley is a young man and, as Minister for Justice, I am sure he has a reasonably open mind. The Minister need not take my views as those of a crank in our particular culture or society. These views are held by many distinguished criminologists and penologists, admittedly in the Scandinavian countries, Denmark and Holland, and are being researched and experimented with.

The function of the probation officer should really be to carry out an examination in depth of the individual's life history as an aid to the justice and to the Garda and, then, after a decision has been taken, the probation officer is responsible for supervision and help in the after-care period. The difficulty arises with us in that it is considered improper for the justice to have any information in advance of making up his mind. In certain circumstances it could be damaging to the person in the dock, but to the justice with the correct approach to the problem such information could only be of help to him in making up his mind. The high incidence of recidivism in the people who spend many years in punitive-type prisons is in itself a fairly good rationalisation of the rejection by many of us that punitive-type isolation, such as imprisonment, is of any value at all beyond satisfying our wish to hurt the person and punish him for whatever he has done.

I am glad to hear that Marlborough House is to be closed and that we will have a new preventive centre at Finglas. I would be interested to hear what kind of centre this will be and what the Minister has in mind in relation to it. How does the Minister propose to staff it? How many people will be there? What type of person will it care for?

The Minister mentions the business of short-stay treatment in St. Patrick's. There is a problem with regard to short-stay treatment at St. Patrick's. By the time the patients have settled down they are ready for discharge. This really brings me back to the point I was making about the difficulty of justices in deciding on the optimum time for isolating an individual because of the way he has offended against society. Would the Minister consider the idea of the probation officer helping the justice by finding out as much as he can in advance from psychiatrists' reports, psychologists' reports, social workers' reports and from reports on the general background of the individual in order to help the justice to make up his mind as to the type of institution to which the person should be sent and for how long he should be sent?

In deciding on the duration it is practically impossible to say, no matter how expert one is, whether five months and not seven months is the correct time, or 11 months and not 12. In some places in the United States they have the system of from one to five years, one to six months, six months to two years, two years to ten years—in some way allowing some expert body from time to time to review the sentence and to decide, and to have the right from the courts to decide, that the person can be discharged from prison when he is accepted as being well.

There is a great need in our prisons generally for segregation, classification and serious retraining. As I have said, segregation and classification in relation to psychopaths is very important in the approach to their treatment and care and similarly in the case of the first offender and the recidivist all of whom should be kept apart for obvious reasons.

The latest report I have is the 1966 prison report. From that report it seemed clear that the retraining facilities consisted of baking, weaving, laundry and the general maintenance of the institution. There was also the extraordinary one of learning how to drive a car which the Minister keeps on mentioning. It seems a little bizarre to have that particular one.

Not at all. That is very important.

Fair enough but it seems a little perculiar suddenly to decide to introduce car-driving as part of retraining.

The same thought occurred to me when I first discovered this but apparently it is much easier for people to get employment on leaving prison if they are able to drive.

In that case, I am glad that they are being taught to drive but I hope that they will own cars, lorries or vans in due course. From reading the report I got the impression that these forms of retraining were designed to keep Mountjoy moving as it were because clothes were being washed, bread was being baked and uniforms were woven. I believe the latter has now been discontinued. That system would seem to incorporate cheap labour. It was also practised in the mental hospitals. It was a very bad system, being the old workhouse system translated into mental hospitals and then into prisons.

I understand that the Minister is now talking about light metalwork and so on in this context but I would like these ideas to be closer to the establishment of a vocational section.

Hear, hear.

The Minister is aware that in so far as our mental hospitals are concerned, the health authorities are linked with vocational schools so that it is possible to provide instruction in the hospitals in domestic economy, carpentry, engineering, light metalwork, secretarial work, printing and so on. I know that we come up against a trade union problem but it would indicate a more realistic and serious intent on the part of the Department if a much more flexible and versatile scheme of retraining were made available for young people.

The Dutch have the closed prisons, the semi-open prison and the open prison. My experience of prisons here is limited to visiting people and talking to them but it seems to me that the attempt to break off the emotional and physical links which the individual has with his family and friends is particularly brutal. It is sadistic and thoughtless and must be demoralising for the individual. The Minister mentioned the terrible problem of the institutionalisation of the individual in these places and the reluctance on the part of the individual to leave prison if he has been there for some time. This is a common phenomenon in our mental hospitals. It is probably the biggest problem we have.

If any one of us were to be sent to one of these places we simply would not want to leave after a certain point of time because we would no longer have our individual personality. We would have been drained of any initiative or of any wish to accept responsibility. Therefore, we destroy these people morally by this very thoughtless and cruel approach to them in so far as we deprive them of their liberty and that is an appalling thing to do to any person. Neither human being nor animal should be caged. We deprive them of the consolation of friendships and of family links. Their facilities for writing are restricted. I cannot understand why they should not be permitted and, indeed, encouraged to write as many letters as they wish because when a person is sent to prison, two parties suffer. As well as the imprisoned person suffering, his unfortunate wife and family, brothers and sisters, also suffer.

Without any great difficulty our prisons could be run on lines that would involve a great deal less suffering for those people whom we decide must be isolated from the community. We should encourage the retention of family links and we should also encourage the individual to retain his links with the outside world. If one talks to somebody who has been in prison for any length of time, he will discover that that person has great difficulty in re-establishing his association with the outside world.

Other countries are able to overcome this problem. The problem is not a financial one but, rather, an attitude of mind on the part of prison authorities. In Holland, for instance, frequent visits are encouraged and these visits are not very closely supervised. I remember visiting an old friend of mine, a former Deputy of this House, in Mountjoy. During the visit we sat with a table between us and the unfortunate man was attired in an appalling prison uniform while an unfortunate warder sat beside us. I am sure the warder must have disliked the situation as much as anybody else. That brings me to another factor that should be taken into consideration. Not only must it be demoralising for the prisoner to have this sort of supervision but it must also be demoralising for the people who have to work there.

When open prisons were first introduced in Britain, in the United States, in Holland and in Sweden the staff were frightened and worried. They found it difficult to cope but after a while the loss of the primary custodian functions and the introduction of a therapeutic approach, an understanding and a compassionate approach, not only made things better for the prisoner and helped the prisoner but also made life very much less tense and less exacting for the people who were working there.

I do not think we have any open prisons at all. I know the Department of Justice attempt to allow the prisoner freedom in the last five or six months of his sentence but a geieral belief now is that these people should be transferred to a semi-open or open prison, particularly in the last five or six months, where there are no security precautions at all, where they can travel to work and back and where they are given graded amounts of responsibility so that eventually they are able to take on the job of leading a full life after their discharge. I do not know, but I hope Deputy Tunney is wrong and that there are not people in our society, breadwinners as he called them, living on the slop which is widely known to be served to prisoners, particularly in Mountjoy. I always feel, as regards the people who say that, that I would like to set them down at a table and tell them to eat the stuff, and, if they got up satisfied, then I would be impressed.

I am not really sure what was the Minister's rationale for the reduction from 21 to 19 years. Is it that he is so pushed for space that he must get rid of them from St. Patrick's? He must explain to us why he thinks St. Patrick's and Shanganagh are all right at 19 but not at 20 or 21, and, further, why the ordinary prison is not all right at 19 but is all right at 21. For many years we have believed that for St. Patrick's 19 to 21 were the correct ages. On what medical, psychological or scientific grounds are we making this decision (a) to restrict the age to 19 in relation to St. Patrick's and (b) to reduce the age at which people go into ordinary prisons?

I am not really impressed by the case the Minister has made because talking about the age of an individual, whether it is 19, 20 or 21, leaves out of consideration altogether the whole psychodynamics of the process of maturation, the fact that you can get a person of 40 who is very immature and a person of 19 who is very mature. Therefore the ages of 19, 20 and 21 have no scientific meaning. They are arbitrary figures. The Minister may have good reason for the decision but I can see no reason for it.

Reducing the age limit by two years seems very much more likely to be motivated by a wish to reduce the pressure on St. Patrick's by transferring people to our ordinary prisons. The Minister must agree it is a retro grade step to transfer younger people into these dreadful, very backward prisons in which we now carry our adult prison population. I should like to have a very much better reason than the reasons so far given before I would accept that it is a desirable thing to do. Establish a separate institution, if you want to, for the 19-21s and then another one for the over 21s, to the extent that that is of any value at all, and then up to 19. However, as things are, it is a retrograde decision. Equally I think the decision to give the Minister power under section 7 to transfer people from St. Patrick's to prison because of overcrowding is a very dangerous provision indeed.

If we believe that separate, specialist institutions such as St. Patrick's and Shanganagh should be established in the interest of these young people, then we cannot be justified—that is our own fault again, a failure of adult society— in putting these people into the very traumatic and infectious environment of an adult-type prison simply on the grounds of the convenience of the prison authority. The obvious reply is, if we have to, to provide more accommodation rather than this makeshift arrangement of using what we know is substandard accommodation.

Supposing this principle were accepted in medicine, that a patient required some specialist care and the hospital decided they could not give him that care, and we said: "We shall make legal provision for the treatment of this person in one of the substandard institutions in which he may suffer permanent disability or lose his life because it is substandard, because it is not designed for that purpose". Nobody would tolerate that at all. This Bill asks us to do precisely that with the emotional health of a young person in our society, and for that reason it is a retrograde step.

The provisions in the Bill are minimal. They are, I am afraid, only the least the Minister can do. The curious thing is that the only worthwhile proposals mentioned by the Minister are not included in the Bill at all. This is a retrograde step. The proposals referred to in his opening speech are, unfortunately, only proposals which may or may not be implemented. Those are the only things which will add anything at all worthwhile to the betterment of our penal system.

Níl mórán le rá agam. Labhair mé cheana ar Mheastachán na Roinne Dlí agus Cirt. Fáiltím roimh an mBille agus cé nach n-aontaím go hiomlán go bhfuil sé chomh maith agus d'fhéadfaidh sé a bheith is céim ar aghaidh é. Ní duine mé a cheapann gur féidir gach a bhfuil le déanamh a dhéanamh. Caithfear airgead a chaitheamh ar na rudaí seo.

Is é an scéal céanna i gcónaí é. Níl go leor airgid ann.

Bhí an Teachta ar dhuine de na daoine anseo a dhein guthaíocht in aghaidh an airgead sin a bhí ag teastáil uainn.

Ní h-iad na cúrsaí seo a bhí i gceist.

Ní féidir leat a rá go bhfuil níos mó ag teastáil agus gur ceart níos mó airgid a chaitheamh muna bhfuil tú san am sásta guthaíocht a dhéanamh ar son chaitheamh anois.

Unlike Deputies who have spoken, and, indeed, those who will speak presently, I welcome the Bill.

The Deputy is anticipating the attitude of Deputies who will speak presently.

I shall be listening to the Deputy if and when he speaks.

The Deputy must have some extra sensory preception.

I shall be very happy to be disappointed in my prophecy. Meanwhile I shall proceed to say that in so far as it indicates to me a step forward I welcome this Bill. There are many things about our prison institutions, and indeed about St. Patrick's, that I would criticise and have criticised before. Perhaps I should mention here the point mentioned by Deputy Dr. Browne that he is at a loss to know why I should speak in any favourable terms about the food available in St. Patrick's Institution. He is at a loss to know why I could say there were some wage earners in the country who did not enjoy better diet. I say that having eaten the food there. If Deputy Dr. Noel Browne can, having eaten the food, inform me to the contrary then I shall accept his criticism but as I am not aware that Deputy Dr. Browne has visited St. Patrick's Institution I cannot accept it.

The Deputy would be very welcome to visit the institution and sit down there with the boys and share their meals with them. While it is not of hotel standard it is in my opinion— and I claim to know the wage earners of this country—comparable with the diet of some of our wage earners. I should be happy to see the diet of those wage earners improve but in a situation in which they are subsidising and paying in taxation for the diet of the young offenders in St. Patrick's it would be rather unjust and unfair to those wage earners that we should require them to provide for juvenile offenders a diet which they cannot afford to give to their wives and children, all of whom are law-abiding citizens.

St. Patrick's was undoubtedly overcrowded. Some of the offenders have been removed to Shanganagh to relieve the pressure in St. Patrick's. My real concern here is that this will give relief to the staff of St. Patrick's. We are inclined to think too much of the offender and too little of the staff. We must remember the staff of St. Patrick's are not working in the best of environments. They are handling young boys who are not unfortunately the best of company and a thought should be spared for the staff as well as for the offenders. I must admit, having said that, that my first concern is for the offender and that, within reason, anything we can do for those offenders should be done.

I said during the Estimate debate that I would like to see some variation in the diet in St. Patrick's. I said as the bulk of the offenders are Dublin boys who have been accustomed to fish and chips that I saw no reason why fish and chips should not be available to them. Others, such as professional people and dieticians, might perhaps join issue with me and say that this is not very nutritional. However, in so far as it would be attractive to the inmates then the meals presented to them at the moment should include fish and chips.

I welcome the segregation which is envisaged here. There is no doubt that the situation which allowed a young offender, who was in there for breaking into a shop and stealing a packet of cigarettes or a pound note, to work in the same shop and fraternise with somebody, who was in there on a much more serious charge, was not desirable. One concern I would have in the matter of a person who might be removed to Mountjoy is whether he will enjoy any segregation there or whether the offender, who from the point of view of age may not be a criminal as such, when removed from St. Patrick's to Mountjoy with a view to making space available would find himself listening to, talking to and working with criminals who may be in on very serious offences.

I am not happy, when talking about providing training for those boys, that there is being provided at the moment any worthwhile instruction. I am thinking particularly of the mat shop in St. Patrick's. Boys are employed there and, as somebody said, most of them do not enjoy the same stability as the rest of us. I guarantee that if any person healthy in mind and body is obliged to go in there to do a spell of two days in that mat shop he will not feel the better for it. A situation where you have boys who are not so well balanced and who are obliged to spend day after day going through the process of making mats is undesirable. It is undesirable also that, having acquired a certain skill in the mat shop, on leaving St. Patrick's there is not any place in Dublin or in Ireland where a boy can obtain employment of that nature.

During the early days of my membership of the St. Patrick's visiting committee I advocated the appointment of a teacher to those boys in some subjects which might benefit them. Some of the boys might not benefit because of their short stay. I have in mind a subject such as English. Deputy Browne spoke about the fact that those boys are not allowed to write to or to receive letters from relatives as frequently as they might like. It might be no harm to remember that some of the boys in St. Patrick's would not be able to write even the simplest letter. That is why I suggest that while they are there instruction might be given to them. Apart from the fact that it would enable them to communicate with their people outside if they so wished, it would enable them to leave the institution with a certain indebtedness to it and to society which enabled them to benefit to the extent that they are able to write letters, something they were not able to do when they entered.

In Shanganagh we are to instruct the boys in woodwork but I do not think the nature of the woodwork instruction will enable any boy, having left, to engage in any worthwhile woodwork activities outside. Any boy who hopes to pursue woodwork as a trade is required to have a group certificate awarded to him after an attendance of two years, sometimes three, at a post-primary school. Unless he has already been engaged in that type of study I cannot see that, having spent six months in Shanganagh and been engaged in woodwork there, he is guaranteed any type of employment outside. He might be able to get some casual work and perhaps through negotiation between AnCO and the trade unions it might be possible to make arrangements whereby he could be slotted in after leaving Shanganagh, but I am inclined to agree with Deputy Browne that perhaps his availability in Shanganagh is a temptation to us to have him engage in the making of furniture which can be of use to us.

This is a measure on which we hear an amount of talk about psychiatric treatment. I should not like to make little of any professional examination, of any professional qualification in this field. On the other hand, there are certain matters which might present themselves to anybody visiting those institutions, looking around them and finding out how come, why the boys find themselves where they are. Anybody who does that will discover that 90 per cent of those young offenders come from broken, disturbed homes. They are sons of fathers who know them not. If during their lives they have obtained any consideration or any consolation from any person it has been from a lady. Those children in their earlier years invariably have been close to a mother. They find themselves, then, after a first offence as a juvenile, sent down to Galway or Kerry, to an institution staffed by Christian brothers, staffed by men.

They come back to Dublin, or to wherever they live, and get into some botheration and find themselves within the grey walls of St. Patrick's, a place, again, staffed by men in black, big men in black. They do not feel like chatting to those men because now they realise that the misfortune that is theirs was caused originally by a man. They do not see in the men, no matter how considerate these men may be towards them, the consolation or the comfort which they need.

I have said it before and I repeat it, not as a professional but as a man who feels himself blessed with common sense, that it is highly desirable, indeed essential, that we should have in St. Patrick's a lady or ladies. I can appreciate that those of us who would be concerned for the well-being of ladies can very readily come up with some objection to having a lady within those walls. On the other hand, I can say I am aware that it would not be too much trouble to have in St. Patrick's a matron and an assistant matron and, if possible, a third matron. If those ladies were there we would get that communication from the inmates which I feel we shall never get from the majority of the boys in present circumstances.

When criticising the prisons, the situation that exists there, and when talking about our approach to punitive measures, we should bear in mind that the prisons are the inheritors of botherations which were not of our own creation. Perhaps we should go outside the prisons and concern ourselves more with the situation and circumstances which give rise to having inmates in St. Patrick's Institution.

Deputy Browne visualises a situation whereby offenders who are in St. Patrick's Institution and in Mountjoy would have more attention and better care than people outside. It is no pleasure to me, and I am sure the same applies to everybody in this House, to think that we are causing pain to any person. On the other hand, I accept the present position as being perhaps the best we can have. When a Deputy advocates a system which would give an offender a higher standard of living than it would to the offended, he is obliged to show how that fits into the whole pattern of society.

It goes without saying that when somebody commits an offence, if we are to discourage this practice, there must be some form of punishment. I should welcome the opportunity of asking Deputy Browne if he has a solution. If the Deputy visualises young boys living in an institution having the best facilities available in the matter of education and general living standards, how does he relate that to the law-abiding boy outside who is required to do a hard day's work and who gets little thanks from society? We must accept the situation that it is impossible to organise any society in the manner suggested by Deputy Browne.

What would be the attitude of Deputy Browne in a situation where, for instance, 20 boys on parole from Shanganagh might decide to go on a housebreaking tour of Leeson Street, Baggot Street or Fitzwilliam Square? What would his attitude be if they visited his constituents and took jewellery and money from them? Would the Deputy then criticise the Minister for Justice for allowing boys who were before the courts a short time previously and were convicted of housebreaking to roam the streets of Dublin? I do not know; perhaps the Deputy's approach would be that that is the fashion in which he sees this problem corrected. Perhaps he has the ability to convince the people in those areas that what was happening was in their best interests but personally I would not be prepared to do it.

I understand there is one teacher in St. Patrick's Institution who is qualified to teach English and arithmetic. I am given to believe that an occasion may arise when he may be called upon to perform other duties; it does not arise frequently but it may. I would ask the Minister to make sure that there is a full-time teacher available to instruct the boys in the fundamentals of English.

Hear, hear.

I urge the Minister in respect of Shanganagh and St. Patrick's Institution to appoint a matron and assistant matron. I would also appeal to him to make arrangements to have books available for the boys in St. Patrick's; the books might perhaps deal with football, motor-car racing and so on. In this matter we should compliment the city librarian who has made books available to the boys. I may mention that, as a member of the committee, I was very pleased that Independent Newspapers agreed to forward to the institution copies of their paper, free of charge. I am hopeful that other newspapers, who would have us believe they are concerned with this problem, would follow the example of the Irish Independent in this matter.

Sin a bhfuil le rá agam. An bhliain seo chugainn, le cúnamh Dé, nuair a bhéas Meastachán an Aire á phlé beidh mé sásta le céim amháin ar aghaidh san am. Beidh mé sásta má bhíonn nuachlár lán-aimsearach Béarla in Institiúd Naomh Pádraig agus i Seangheanaigh agus chomh maith leis sin má bhíonn bean amháin ar an fhoireann.

I am afraid I must start off by pointing out that Deputy Tunney, at the outset of his speech, introduced a slightly partisan note which up to then had been absent from the debate. He has done this on occasions during the debates, but I believe he more than compensated for it by what he said later on in his speech, because he showed a very practical concern for the problems involved. I am sure the whole House appreciate what Deputy Tunney and the other members of the visiting committees are doing and the spirit in which they are endeavouring to improve conditions and improve the prospects for reform.

If I might interrupt the Deputy, I should just like to point out that it is never my intention to be partisan. If it would not disturb the Deputy too much I should like to hear from him where he feels I was partisan. If I have been partisan. I promise to correct it.

I am not able to give specific quotations.

Then the Deputy should not say it.

I felt the Deputy's tone was rather partisan.

There is a danger that we might set the interests of the community at large against those of the prisoners, and the interests of the staff against those of the prisoners. There is always the temptation to create divisions of interest between the community as a whole and the prisoners, and between the staff and the prisoners. This is generally unnecessary and not beneficial. We should, above all, seek to eliminate from our approach to penal policies the idea of revenge by the community or the offended on the offender for what he has done. We do not usually specifically call it revenge but behind a lot of the fine rationalisations the idea of revenge creeps in. We should avoid this, not only on the grounds of Christian charity, but on the grounds of simple practicality, because it does not achieve anything.

Prisons must be used as a deterrent to further crime and also for the confinement of people dangerous to the community. However, it is not absolutely proven that a spell in prison is, in fact, a deterrent to further crime. It does mean a confined person cannot commit another crime while he is in prison but it has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the prospect of a spell in prison deters people from crime. This is open to argument but I do not think we should be too dogmatic about it.

I do not think the community should carp about improvements in prison conditions and better food. I think we should have the courage to improve conditions and show the community that this is part of the process of rehabilitation which will be of benefit to the community as a whole as well as to the prisoners by leading to a fall in the crime rate. We should not, as Deputy Tunney seemed to do, expect the worst from the prisoners in Shanganagh. When deciding what to do with them we should not conjure up pictures of prisoners breaking their parole and going off and robbing houses all over Dublin south east. I think the idea of looking at the worst possible eventuality in relation to what we are doing in our prisons should not become the determining factor in our policy formation. I have sufficient confidence in the community to believe that, if we avoid giving such considerations great prominence in the formation of penal policy, the Christian charity of the people will follow us in these matters; they will not seek excessive confinement even if it does involve taking certain risks.

I welcome this Bill and I also welcome the Minister's opening speech, which dealt not only with many practical reforms but also with his general attitude towards the treatment of crime in which he sees the criminal as somebody to be treated and helped rather than somebody just to be punished. While we can attribute some of this improvement to the new Minister for Justice it would be unfair not to give credit to his predecessor Deputy Moran. I know that Deputy Moran came into conflict with this House, and indeed with my party, on many occasions but he always showed a genuine concern for prison reform. I think this Bill and the new Minister's speech are a credit to him as well.

In facing the problem of rising crime we must not look simply at the basic crude figures for the crime rate which are certainly rising. We must look behind these figures to see the type of people committing the crime and see what is motivating them. If we do this we will find there is a heavy concentration of crime in certain age groups, in certain social classes and in certain localities. On the basis of British figures, which I am sure apply here, a person living in the north dock of Dublin is about eight times more likely to become a criminal than a person living in a comfortable suburb in the southern part of this city.

I am not aware of figures indicating this specific relationship to Dublin but certainly figures available in Britain indicate that criminal tendencies are not something which come purely from the individual; they also come from the social environment. People living in a deprived environment are more likely to have criminal tendencies; likewise, younger people, particularly those under the age of 23, have a much greater tendency to be involved in crime. I think 50 per cent of the indictable offences in Britain are committed by people under 23. This fact must also influence our approach to prison policy. Some localities even in the same social groupings have a higher tendency to crime. I understand the north dock area of Dublin is particularly bad whereas other areas with more or less the same standard of living have not the same crime rate. If we can find out why this is we might be able to draw some useful conclusions.

In recent years there has been a very great increase in the amount of juvenile crime. This is something which must cause serious concern. In reply to a question, which I put to the Minister today, he told me that the increase in prison sentences between 1962 and 1969 in the case of people under 21 was 43 per cent. This is an increase of almost one-half again in six or seven years. This is a matter of considerable concern. We have, too, the problem of recidivism, of people returning again and again to prison. There has not been quite such a dramatic increase in recent years in recidivism but the fact is we have not made any serious impact from the point of view of solving the problem. In 1962 the figure was 66 per cent; in 1969 it was 70 per cent. During the entire decade it was always somewhere in the region of 66 to 70 per cent. We are not curing recidivists. We are not ensuring that they do not commit further crimes. In fact, the indications are that the problem is getting worse.

A common factor in the prison population is the very low level of intelligence and of educational attainments. This was clearly borne out by the survey done by the social science department of UCD in St. Patrick's. I am sure the same generalisation would apply, with some modification perhaps, to the prisoners in Mountjoy and in adult prisons generally. In St. Patrick's 50 per cent were only semi-literate and 4 per cent were classified as illiterate. The most common factor in the backgrounds of these boys was the high degree of truancy from school. This indicated not just a lack of intelligence but the possibility that these boys felt uncomfortable in the school environment. In shaping educational policy, therefore, we should examine the problems of children who mitch from school. That may not be due merely to lack of application but to some psychological factor which makes these children fear being in class for a whole day. It was also clear that the average intelligence quotient was very low in St. Patrick's. It was only 84. Some 3 per cent were classified as mentally defective. The most remarkable figure of all, some 30 per cent—almost one-third—were classified as borderline mental defectives; in all, one-third were mentally defective.

Would the Deputy give me the reference so that I can check what he is quoting?

I am sure this survey is available to the Minister's Department. That is a survey carried out a few years ago by social science students in UCD on the boys in St. Patrick's. I am surprised the Minister is not aware of it. I hope that does not suggest the figures are invalid. We must not look on those who engage in criminal activities as evil people. We must realise that society is as much, if not more, to blame for their criminal activities as they are themselves. I have remarked a slight defect in the approach of the Department to some penal policies. They seem to be afraid to experiment. The experiments on the whole seem to savour of token experiments, a little bit of this sort of reform and a little bit of that sort of reform. The numbers affected by these reforms are minimal. Until these new methods are brought to some degree of perfection we cannot, I suppose, involve too many prisoners in them. At the same time we must avoid letting this natural fear of untried methods excuse us from using a sufficient number of prisoners in these schemes.

An important scheme in preventing crime is the juvenile liaison scheme recently introduced. The Garda officers visit people who have mild criminal records or who may have no criminal records at all but may show a tendency to criminal involvement. There are certain defects in the service. The officer involved is paid 10s a week. That is quite inadequate. The work is spread all over the city. The travelling expenses are geared to the officer using a bicycle for getting around from one place to another. In fact most of them provide a car at their own expense. If this service is to be carried out effectively there must be adequate travelling expenses related to modern transport methods. The men must be provided with cars and not given expenses appropriate to the use of a push-bicycle.

There was a scheme under which the boys had a summer holiday extending over two weeks in Ballinakill Salesian College in Laois. As far as I know that scheme has been discontinued. I hope this is temporary. We should avoid any question of departmental restriction. The travelling expenses and the removal of the summer holiday seem indicative of certain restrictions by the Department on what was a very good scheme.

I come now to those involved in crime. The first question that arises is in regard to the sentence imposed. There should not be wide discrepancies in sentences as between one district justice and another. The Minister is, I know, concerned about this. Wide discrepancies can have a very serious effect on the goodwill with which prisoners accept their sentences and hence on their prospects of reform.

The Chair would like to point out to the Deputy that the enforcement of the law is not in question so far as this Bill is concerned.

I acknowledge that fact. In the approach to sentences care should be taken to make the punishment fit the criminal and not the crime. That is important.

Again, the Chair must point out that prison conditions are under discussion and it is not proper to criticise judicial decisions.

I submit that it is entirely artificial to try to consider present conditions if one cannot also consider the length of time for which people are asked to endure those conditions. I think this is relevant. The sentence a person has to serve is vitally important.

The Chair cannot agree with the Deputy on that point because there is an opportunity for Deputies during Estimates debates to deal with matters which pertain to the courts and the Department of Justice. The Deputy seems to be critising judicial decisions.

We should take a look at the system in California where the actual function of sentencing is a matter for a board, the judge being confined merely to the question of determining guilt.

The Chair would hope the Deputy would not pursue this.

I shall not pursue it but I wanted to make that point which I felt to be important. We need more specialised institutions to deal with our criminal population. There is possibly a need for special institutions such as exist in England for first offenders, special institutions for certain types of offenders, petty thieves or violent criminals. This is certainly the case in England in relation to younger offenders. They have a wide spectrum of institutions among which those whose job it is to dispose of those sentenced, can choose, so as to ensure that the offenders are put into the institutions best suited to their criminal dispositions and capabilities for rehabilitation.

There is a certain danger in this Bill. From an age point of view there is a strong argument for having a third type of institution. At present we have two. We are now to have an institution for those aged between 16 and 19 and other institutions, the prisons, for those from 19 onwards. Those between 19 and 21 or 22 have special characteristics which would warrant the provision of a third type of institution to cater for their particular needs. The figure given here, which indicates that at least 50 per cent of criminal offences are committed by people under 23, suggests that people in this age group have special problems not shared by those in older groups for whom, perhaps, the normal prison routine would be more appropriate. We should consider an extra institution for those between 19 and 21.

In many of our institutions there has developed an introvert atmosphere. The main aim is to fit people to live in the community as normal law-abiding members. Our institutions are dealing with people who, up to this, have not been able to cope with conditions as they exist in the community. The solution in many of our institutions is to take them further away from the community and the problems with which they were not able to cope as normal members of the community. They are put into a totally artificial atmosphere in the prisons. The staff live in and they are absorbed into this artificial atmosphere also. They do not live among the community. Visits are restricted so that whatever the inmates learn in prison cannot be related to what would apply in the community. This is a very serious matter. We must seek to ensure that people confined in the prisons can apply what they learn in the community. By bringing them further into a more artificial atmosphere we are achieving the reverse of this.

In this context we should take a keen look at the present regulations restricting correspondence and visits from members of the family. Such visits can maintain a sense of continuity and help to ensure that what is learned in the prison can be applied in the community. There can be a continuing process whereby the end is kept in sight. To avoid this introvert atmosphere we should ensure that there would be visits to prisoners by voluntary workers from outside. People with particular aptitudes who could help prisoners in particular ways should be encouraged to visit them. A particular voluntary worker could be assigned to a particular prisoner with whom he would have contact in the prison and outside afterwards.

Perhaps the most important thing is the concept of day release instituted in the 1960 Criminal Justice Bill. Particularly in the closing stages of prisoners' sentences it is very desirable that they should be able gradually to adapt themselves from the prison environment to the external environment so that they would be working while still under supervision and not suddenly projected from one atmosphere to the other. The idea of day release greatly improves their prospects of staying in a steady job afterwards because probably the biggest problem for many of them is to stay at the job for the first few days, to become accustomed to working at a job. Possibly many of them have not had a job before and if the crucial period in the job can be undertaken while still in institutional care the prospects of permanence in a steady job are greatly enhanced.

While this is a good idea which has been lauded by many people there is evidence that it is not being applied with sufficient vigour. In 1966, I understand that 42 prisoners were sent out on day release for employment. In 1969, the figure was 44. This represents an increase but when one considers that the daily average prison population between 1966 and 1969 rose from 169 to 195 one can see that the proportion of prisoners on day release for employment has, in fact, decreased in the case of St. Patrick's Institution. If day release is such a good idea—I believe it is and I think the Minister does— surely the proportion of prisoners availing of it should not have fallen between 1966 and 1969 as was the case? I think the same applies in regard to day release from Mountjoy. I am not sure if I have the actual figures but I do not think there has been a very significant increase between 1968 and 1969. More prisoners should be involved.

It is also important to try to ensure that prisoners develop a sense of responsibility in prison. We are very often putting them into an atmosphere in which they have to accept less responsibility for their actions than they had when they were outside. Everything is done for them. The lights are turned off. The doors are shut. They are fed. They have to do very little for themselves.

Perhaps part of their problems was to acquire a sense of responsibility and an ability to accept responsibility. Perhaps not having this ability to accept responsibility was a big causative factor in their going in for criminal activities. Therefore, it is very unfortunate that the prison machine should be such that it lessens the area of responsibility which prisoners have. We should consider the possibility of involving prisoners in some way in the daily running of the prisons. I know this is a proposal which could very easily be misinterpreted but prisoners should be involved in some way in the running of the prison, in certain daily routine matters. There should be some consultation and they should be given the running of certain matters.

We should also encourage the idea of having discussion groups amongst prisoners guided by people who are competent in the subjects to be discussed. These discussions groups need not necessarily confine themselves to matters of immediate prison interest but should cover matters of general interest. Even political matters could usefully be discussed among the prisoners. This would help to develop their sense of responsibility about what is going on in the community as a whole.

It is also important that we look after the health of the prisoners. I questioned the former Minister for Justice at some length about the food in Mountjoy or in the prisons in general. I did not get a fully satisfactory answer from him as to whether or not there was sufficient protein in the food. I think he took me up wrongly. He was not quite sure when I was asking and he thought I asked him was there enough starch in it. I have not as yet got a clear answer.


We should have one contributor to the debate at a time.

It has been suggested to me that in some prisons throughout the world the prisoners do not maintain a reasonable standard of physical fitness, that they become flabby and are not fit. I do not know if this applies to our prisons but I would welcome an assurance on this matter. We should also ensure that the food is nutritious. In relation to the food there is a remarkable sameness in the reports of the visiting committees. The same phraseology is used every year in the part of the report of the visiting committees which is quoted in the annual report on prisons. I have not got the actual quotation here but it looks as if the inspection of the food is of a rather routine character when the same phraseology is repeated every year in describing the quality of the food.

There is also the question of training facilities in St. Patrick's Institution and Mountjoy. The big problem with many criminals is that they have not the training to enable them to fit into a niche in the community and as a result they turn to crime. We should do all we can to remedy this. In relation to St. Patrick's Institution an objection which was made to extending the training facilities was that the average stay in that institution is four months only. This is a very valid objection but, of course, there are a substantial number of prisoners who stay for much longer than four months. We should have special concern for the training of these people.

While the average stay of prisoners might be only four months, many of them return again for another four months, and perhaps another four months. There is a possibility that the training which had been initiated in the first four months could be continued although this, of course, has certain dangerous possibilities. It might encourage them to come back. We should not consider this figure of the average stay being four months as a restrictive factor. There are many people who stay much longer. There should be training facilities for them to ensure that they get full and proper training, training which can secure recognition. A problem in relation to the trade unions giving recognition to the training given in St. Patrick's Institution was mentioned. This should certainly be looked into particularly by members of the Labour Party who have an influence in this field.

I should like to know how much time per day is spent by the average prisoner in being trained. It is all right to say: "The prisoners are trained daily in the following matters," but if they are being trained for one hour only every day, or perhaps half an hour every day, this is not adequate. We should ensure that as much time as possible is spent in useful and reformative activities and not mere drudgery which has no permanent value. I should like some more concrete indication from the Minister as to the amount of time spent in training and as to the level of ability which is acquired by these people as a result of that training. I should like some more definite information in this field and not just an enumeration of the subjects taught.

There is also the question of remedial treatment for people whose education has been inadequate. I understand from Deputy Tunney's contribution that there is a teacher in St. Patrick's Institution. I was not aware of this. I would be interested to know what are the qualifications of this person. I would also be interested to know how much of the time of these people who are in need of such remedial education is spent on learning to read and write. Is it just a token half an hour every day, or are they given four or five hours tuition?

I also notice that the Minister is again talking about hoping to appoint an educational psychologist in the near future. We have been hoping to appoint an educational psychologist in the near future for the past two years, but he has not yet been appointed. I wonder why. I already mentioned the people who are mentally defective. What facilities are there for those people in the prisons? It is one thing to talk about remedial education for people who are reasonably intelligent but who have not reached a certain standard but it is another thing to talk about people who are mentally incapacitated: What special facilities are there for those people to enable them to adapt?

We must divide these two problems. They need different forms of treatment. I should like some specific information from the Minister indicating the level of improvement reached in respect of these people, the amount of time spent on them and the number of personnel involved. We need much more information.

Perhaps a very useful feature of the recent reforms in this field has been the appointment of welfare officers who involve themselves in this work of placement of prisoners in jobs in the community.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 27th May, 1970.