The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald, has issued a press release after her office was summoned by Ms Justice Ann Ryan to attend the Dublin Children’s Court. Presented with the case of a 16-year old boy charged with heroin dealing and car theft, Ms Justice Ann Ryan questioned why there were no places for him at Oberstown detention centre despite there being 8 empty beds at the facility. Ms Justice Ryan stated that on 18 occasions in the previous month the Children’s Court was unable to detain children charged with serious offences because of lack of space, despite the existence of 8 empty beds.
Government practice of imprisoning children under 16 with adult offenders in St. Patrick’s Institution has ended since the Government faced widespread criticism of the detention of children in the institution. The end of this practice has resulted in a three fold increase of detainees at the Oberstown facility.
There are currently 36 operational beds to hold boys up to 18 years old at Oberstown Boys Centre and Trinity House detention school, however 8 spaces cannot be used due to ‘staffing problems’ resulting from the implementation of a new roster. Ms. Justice Ann Ryan has condemned the situation and said the staff roster should be reorganised as soon as possible.
The Minister has indicated that the Government has committed €50million to the development of a new campus at Oberstown to begin building in July 2013. The new centre is planned to help manage the increase in young offenders being referred to the Oberstown facility and will provide an additional 30 beds to the system.
IPRT welcomes the Minister’s refusal to commit boys aged 16 and under to St Patrick’s Institution, however, we caution against an expansionist penal policy. There are currently enough spaces available at Oberstown house to accommodate referrals from the Children’s Court. Prison and detention facilities such as Oberstown should be options of last resort and used as a structured and rehabilitative environment that will reduce reoffending. Placing young offenders in St. Patrick’s Institution is not in the interests of the community or the offender.
- Irish Times: ‘Judge seeks action from Minister on juvenile spaces’
- Irish Times: ‘Children at risk due to HSE care failures, Hiqa report finds’
- Irish Independent: ‘Fitzgerald says new juvenile detention centre will be ready next year’
- Press Release from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs: Statement by Minister Fitzgerald in relation to issues in the Children Court
- IPRT: Inspection report on Children Detention Schools at Oberstown