The Deputy will be aware that the primary role of the Irish Prison Service is the provision of safe and secure custody for prisoners. The Deputy will also be aware that the Prison Service must accept all persons committed by the courts into custody and does not have the option of refusing committals. I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that as of Wednesday 18 June 2014, there was a total of 34 women were in custody in Limerick Prison. A Business Case for the Modernisation of Prison Facilities in Limerick Prison is currently being drafted by the Irish Prison Service. Part of the proposed redevelopment includes the provision of high quality prison accommodation for female prisoners with capacity of approximately 50 individual cells and 8 custodial apartments.
The Irish Prison Service provides to those in custody a wide range of rehabilitative programmes, which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging them to lead non-offending lives on release. The development of prisoner programmes forms a central part of the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012 - 2015. There is a clear commitment in the Strategy to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes such as education, work training and resettlement programmes.
On 6 March 2014 the IPS published a Women’s Strategy entitled "An Effective Response to Women Who Offend in March 2014. The Women’s Strategy sets out how the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service will work together, as well as with other statutory, community and voluntary sector partners, to provide women-focused interventions to help reduce offending, improve opportunities for reintegration and to improve outcomes more generally. This co-operative approach is a direct result of the Joint Strategy published last year which aims delivers more effective offender management.
I am informed that the IPS has also been expanding the number of accredited vocational courses and opportunities available to prisoners in Work Training in recent years. Enhanced partnership arrangements with accrediting bodies such as City and Guilds and the Guild of Launders and Cleaners and the centralising of coordination and quality assurance arrangements have enabled the Irish Prison Service to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification. Female offenders in Limerick Prison now have the opportunity to avail of this certified training in the laundry and in industrial cleaning.
Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including the VECs, Public Library Services, colleges and the Arts Council. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents, which has remained unaltered since 2007. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is the priority and broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach.