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IPRT hails Government’s action on ending detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution as “historic”

2nd April 2012

MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has hailed as “historic” the announcement today (Monday, 2nd April, 2012) by Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, that capital funding of approx. €50m is to be made available for the building of the first phase of the National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown in Lusk, and that that the practice of imprisonment of children in Ireland will cease within two years. IPRT further welcomed the announcement that from 1st May 2012, boys aged 16 will no longer be detained in St Patrick’s Institution.

IPRT has campaigned for the end of imprisonment of children in Ireland since the organisation was founded in 1994, and it has been a priority issue for the organisation in recent years.

Responding to today’s announcement, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:

“This is a historic day. Over the past 25 years, successive governments have made commitments to ending the imprisonment of children in Ireland, but this is the first time we have seen a concrete plan and a concrete timeline. Given the current pressures on resources, it is extremely significant that the Minister has received support from the Government to proceed with this project, and it is a powerful statement of the Government’s commitment to the rights of children who come into conflict with the law. The message from the Ryan Report was not just about the past but what needs to change for children in the care of the State today, and the detention of children in prison continues to be one of the most glaring failures in how this State cares for children.”

“This development is central to the reform of the youth justice system in Ireland, and, while there is still work to be done in reducing the numbers going into detention – particularly in addressing the high numbers on remand who do not go on to receive a detention order – that the imprisonment of children will end means the last of the larger outstanding issues will be addressed.”

“We also welcome the acknowledgment that children in the criminal justice system have complex needs and backgrounds which require specialist therapeutic treatment and for which a punitive prison environment is extremely damaging. The Minister’s statement recognizes the capacity of young people to change, a capacity which is supported by scientific research into adolescent development.”

“We particularly welcome the interim arrangements commencing on 1st May 2012 which will see all newly remanded or sentenced boys aged 16 detained in children detention facilities and not an adult prison. However, we should not lose sight of the issues which remain in St Patrick’s Institution.  There are still around forty 16 and 17 year olds in St. Patrick’s today and interim steps will be needed to transfer as many of these as possible out of the prison system over the next two years.  There is also an urgent need for the Prison Service to take more steps to address other serious concerns in St. Patrick’s, not least the high numbers of prisoners on protection, which at 33.6% are the highest across the prison system.”

For media queries, or to arrange an interview with IPRT Executive Director, Liam Herrick, contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust: T: (01) 874 1400; M: 087 181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. Numbers on Protection in St Patrick’s Instn.

On 31 October 2011 of 187 held in St Patrick’s Institution, 63 (33.6%) were on protection; 8 of these were children (16 and 17 year olds). See Dáil Question from 22 November 2011: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2011/11/22/00302.asp

2. Detention of Children in St Patrick’s Institution – IPRT Briefing

IPRT has outlined our serious concerns about the ongoing detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution, which is in breach of human rights standards, in a short Briefing. Download here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1703

3. Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice – IPRT Report

IPRT published a report on the detention of children in Ireland in Nov 2009, focusing on international standards and best practice. This report informed the framework of key areas in the consultation carried out by the Ombudsman for Children with the young people in St Patrick's Institution. See: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1458

4. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort: www.iprt.ie

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