Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Ceisteanna (805)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

805. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of vacancies on each prison visiting committee; the actions taken to address the vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32878/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

A Visiting Committee is assigned to each of the current 12 prisons and Places of Detention under the Prison (Visiting Committees) Act, 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order, 1925. 

Each committee is to consist of such number of responsible persons, not being more than twelve nor less than six, as the Minister shall think proper.  At present there are 56 Visiting Committee members and there are 17 vacancies in total, as outlined in the table below. Every effort is made to fill vacancies as quickly as possible.  It will be appreciated that all applicants for these positions must undergo Garda vetting and this may lead to some delays in vacancies being filled.

 

Prison

Current Members

Current Vacancies

1

Arbour Hill Prison

5

1

2

Castlerea Prison

5

1

3

Cloverhill Prison

3

3

4

Cork Prison

5

1

5

Dóchas Centre 

4

2

6

Limerick Prison

5

1

7

Loughan House Open Centre

2

4

8

Midlands Prison

7

0

9

Mountjoy Prison

5

1

10

Portlaoise Prison

6

0

11

Shelton Abbey Open Centre

5

1

12

Wheatfield Place of Detention

4

2

 

Total Vacancies

56

17

 The function of visiting committees is to visit at frequent intervals the prison to which they are appointed and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. The visiting committee have free access, either collectively or individually to every part of their prison. In inspecting prisons, the visiting committees focus on issues such as the quality of accommodation, catering, medical, educational, welfare and recreational facilities.

 The role of Visiting Committees will be considered in the context of the drafting of the General Scheme of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill which is the vehicle intended to be used to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).  My Department are in the process of completing a draft scheme of this Bill which I intend to share with key stakeholders for their observations before it is finalised and I bring it to Government for approval later this year.