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More regular inspections needed during “turbulent transition” at Oberstown – IPRT

3rd August 2017

IPRT MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the publication today (Thursday, 3rd August 2017) by the Health Information and Quality Authority of its comprehensive and detailed report on an unannounced inspection of Oberstown Children Detention Campus, conducted 27 - 30 March 2017. IPRT also welcomes the Action Plan by Oberstown management in response to identified issues, and calls for more regular inspections during the transition period to ensure progress on implementation of actions is met.

The HIQA inspection report of Oberstown identifies positive findings in relation to relationships between staff and children, provision of emotional and psychological support, education, and a strong emphasis on participation and consultation with children.

However, the report also raises issues of significant concern, including: very high volume of incidents of single separation; lengths of time that children are held in isolation from their peers; insufficient record-keeping on methods of restraint; delays in bringing young people to hospital when needed; deficiencies in medicine management protocols; and delayed implementation of fire safety policies.

In the Action Plan, Oberstown management commits to clear timelines for implementation of key actions. IPRT notes that 6 months is a long time in a young person’s life and urges management to bring forward deadlines where possible, including in relation to fire safety and offending behaviour programmes.

Responding this evening, IPRT Acting Executive Director, Fíona Ní Chinnéide said:

“Oberstown continues in a period of turbulent transition. More regular inspections by HIQA would build assurance that progress is being maintained towards achieving the highest levels of care and better outcomes for children committed by the Courts.”

“The use of single separation continues to be a serious concern. Isolation of a young person from their peers should be a last resort and for the shortest time possible. For under 18s, this should mean a matter of hours not days. Proper analysis of exactly why this practice continues on Campus, despite wide criticism, is urgently needed.”

“Last week in Geneva, the UN Committee against Torture strongly welcomed Ireland’s significant achievement of ending imprisonment of children in the adult prison system, and closure of St Patrick’s Institution. Thankfully, there is no going back to that dark chapter in Ireland’s history. Staff and management, with support of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, have to make this work.”

On publication of the HIQA Inspection report of Oberstown Children Detention Campus, IPRT calls for:

  • More regular independent inspections of Oberstown: The interval of 16 months (Nov 2015 to March 2017) between inspections by HIQA is too long, given the serious incidents in 2016 and 2017 during a transition period.
  • Accelerated implementation of Action Plan: IPRT urges management to bring forward deadlines for implementation of actions detailed in the HIQA report, including in relation to fire safety policies and offending behaviour programmes
  • Publication of Behaviour Management Review: IPRT calls for the recent review of behaviour management to be published, along with more regular statistics on the use of single separation, restraints, structured programmes, and the lengths of time children are on these programmes.

NOTES:

1. HIQA Inspection report of Oberstown Children Detention Campus, 27 March 2017 is available at: https://www.hiqa.ie/system/files?file=inspectionreports/4225-oberstown%20children%20detention%20campus-27-03-2017.pdf

2. Oberstown Single Separation Policy, May 2017 is available at: https://www.oberstown.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/SingleSeparation_Final_V1.0.pdf

3. Imprisonment of children in Wheatfield Place of Detention: On 3rd August 2017 there are 2 boys aged seventeen detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention, in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the child. The late inspector of Prisons, commenting on the detention of 1 or 2 boys in St Patrick’s Institution noted that “[i]t is, at times, tantamount to holding them in isolation and it is certainly inhumane.” (http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000234, p. 6)

4. Ending 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 Government 2011-2016. Building work was completed at Oberstown in autumn 2014. From March 2015, under-18s can be remanded by the Courts to Oberstown. On 30th March 2017, a Ministerial Order was signed by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD to end the sentencing of children to adult prison in Ireland. Then Minister for Justice and Equality, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD commenced the relevant sections of the Prison Act 2015 to fully close St. Patrick’s Institution with effect from 7th April 2017.

5. IPRT Campaign to end Imprisonment of Children in Ireland: Since 1994, IPRT has played a central role in maintaining pressure on Government to end the detention of children in the prison system in Ireland. Others include the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT), Inspector of Prisons, Ombudsman for Children, and the Special Rapporteur for Child Protection. Advocacy groups who campaigned for reforms along with IPRT include the Children's Rights Alliance, Barnardos, and EPIC.

6. 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