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thejournal.ie: Child offenders will no longer be detained in adult prisons

29th March 2017

thejournal.ie has reported that on Tuesday 28th March 2017, Cabinet agreed to end the sentencing of children to adult prisons. Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, T.D. has said she will sign a ministerial order shortly to end the practice.

Ending the practice of sending children to adult prisons has been a key campaign goal of the Irish Penal Reform Trust since its foundation in 1994. Prison is an inappropriate response to offending by children and is in contravention of international human rights standards.

The ministerial order is currently being drafted by legal officials in the department, but it is understood the government is to move on this issue very quickly and it could be signed and in effect as early as the end of this week. Once this order is signed, the possibility of anyone under the age of 18 being sentenced to detention in an adult prison will be removed.

Although the order, once signed, means there will be no new committals to Wheatfield Prison, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Executive Director of Irish Penal Reform Trust, said the seven boys who are being held in the prison today will either complete their sentence in that prison or transfer to another part of the prison system when they turn 18. Also, despite commitments made by government, one teenage boy is currently detained in St Patrick’s Institution (a practice which was meant to have ended years ago).

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, is quoted in the article as saying:

“Signing the order won’t bring an immediate end to children being held in prison, but it will mean no new children will be detained there. This is very welcome.

“The late Inspector of Prisons Judge Reilly described the detention of one or two boys in St Patrick’s Institution as ‘tantamount to holding them in isolation and it is certainly inhumane’. So it is of serious concern to that this practice can continue today, despite commitments to end it and legislation that allows children to be detained on remand in Oberstown. No child should be in prison, but they definitely should not be held in St Patrick’s Institution.

“Prison is a completely inappropriate response to offending by children, and increases the likelihood of further offending. The detention school model is focused on a model of care, education, health and offending programmes towards better outcomes for the young people and a reduction in offending on release – which is better for everyone”.

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