The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign organisation, has today (Friday, 23rd December 2016) welcomed the deferral of industrial action that had been scheduled to take place from 3rd January 2016 at Oberstown Children Detention Campus. This follows the appointment of an independent health and safety expert, who will conduct a review of safety protocols and arrangements on Campus. IPRT calls on all parties to engage positively with the various reviews currently underway on the Campus, to work to resolve all labour relation issues, and to ensure that the protection of the rights of the children detained remains at the centre of all of these processes.
IPRT does not take any position on labour relations issues, and we work constructively with all key stakeholders in the justice system and the youth justice system. IPRT has previously called on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Oberstown Management and trade unions to resolve their issues in order to ensure that the duty of care to children detained at the National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown is met.
Responding today, Acting Executive Director of IPRT, Fíona Ní Chinnéide said:
"The deferral of industrial action at Oberstown today is very welcome. This Review is an opportunity to resolve safety concerns on Campus without any infringement on the rights and complex needs of the children detained there. It is essential that the Review is grounded in international evidence and best practice in maintaining order without undermining either the rights of the child or the rehabilitative and educational purpose of child detention."
"Very high rates of detention on remand, inconsistent separation of remands from sentenced children, and insufficient access to school and activities all contribute to a less stable environment on Oberstown Campus, and must be addressed."
"The development of strong relationships between staff and individual children remains the most significant protective factor against tensions, and these must be facilitated. It is also important that all staff are supported with regular up-to-date training, including in the areas of prevention and management of conflict, de-escalation, and control and restraint, and that restraint techniques are used rarely, as a last resort, and within clear guidelines."
"Children who have offended most often come from backgrounds characterised by marginalisation, disadvantage and experience of the care system. National and international law and practice makes clear that prison-like responses are inappropriate for these children. Detention facilities informed by an ethos of care, education and rehabilitation are demonstrated to have better outcomes for the children, for their communities, and for society."
IPRT has campaigned for the end of imprisonment of children in Ireland since the organisation was founded in 1994. This principle enshrined in the Children Act 2001 and required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The detention of children in the adult prison system remains a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record. Today (23rd December 2016) there are 11 boys aged seventeen detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison, which is in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
1. Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales (Dec 2016)
A Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales, published 13 December 2016, ascribes the increase in violence in the youth justice system to: a shortage of adequately trained and experienced staff; an increase in the time spent in cells by young people and a reduction in service provision, with “too little access to education, health, services, and staff they know.” (Paras 127-128, pp. 36-37) The report also found that the presence of separate staff responsible for enforcement of rules and response to disorder and violence “exacerbates the problems of engaging and safeguarding children.” (Para 144, pp. 40-41) The review is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/577103/youth-justice-review-final-report.pdf
2. Industrial Action at Oberstown, August 2016
On 30th August 2016, IPRT issued a response to incidents on Oberstown children detention campus that took place following scheduled industrial action, during which children were locked into their rooms. Read here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2951
3. Imprisonment of children in Wheatfield Place of Detention
On Friday 23rd December 2016, there are 1 boys aged 17 detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, an adult prison environment, in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the child: http://www.irishprisons.ie/wp-content/uploads/documents_pdf/23-December-2016.pdf
4. Commitments to end imprisonment of children in Ireland
Ending the practice of sending children to St Patrick’s Institution was a key commitment included in the Programme for Government2011-2016. On 2nd April 2012, then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (and current Tánaiste) Frances Fitzgerald TD announced that €50 million had been secured to progress the building of the new national children detention facility at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin and thereby facilitate the transfer of under-18s from the adult prison system in Ireland. The building work was completed in autumn 2014. Since March 2015, under-18s can be remanded by the Courts to Oberstown.
5. Irish Penal Reform Trust (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