Prisons Bill, 1970: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 27 May 1970

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 247 No. 2

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  In relation to the question of punishment, the concept which we must, above all, avoid is that of revenge. The idea that the community must get an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth with respect to the offender should not be the motivating force. I fear that this concept is very often there behind the scenes in some of the ideas put forward about penology: it is dressed up in more acceptable rationalisations. We should avoid [156] such an approach (1) because it is basically an unchristian and uncharitable attitude to adopt towards the offender and (2) because, to a great extent, criminal tendencies arise in people because of their social background, because of educational deficiencies and because of simple mental deficiencies, in many cases. I had pointed out that it is about eight times more likely that a person brought up in the north dock area in Dublin will be involved in criminal activities than will a person brought up in some part of the rather more prosperous south Dublin suburbs. These figures were drawn up in relation to England but I am sure they apply here also.

The educational background is also a very important factor. I mentioned last night a survey carried out in St. Patrick's Institution and in regard to which the Minister sought clarification. As far as I know, this survey was carried out by the UCD social science department and a report of it was published in the New Irish Jurist, 1965. The survey indicated that, of the inmates there, 50 per cent were semi-literate and 4 per cent were illiterate. In other words, the educational background of 54 per cent of these people was well below par. In these circumstances, I think they could not adapt to the community. It is not surprising, and not their own fault to a great extent, that they became involved in criminal activities.

This survey disclosed that a common factor among all the inmates in St. Patrick's Institution was that they mitched from school; they could not feel happy at school and stayed away from it many times. In other words, they were educationally deprived. It was pointed out that a very substantial number of them had actual mental deficiency as distinct from educational deficiency. The average IQ among people there was 84 which is well below the community average; 3 per cent were classified as mentally defective and 30 per cent of them were borderline mental defectives. In other words, one-third of the inmates of St. Patrick's Institution were classified as suffering from mental defects. Is it any wonder that, in these circumstances, these [157] people cannot adapt to the highly-competitive community that we are evolving towards in this country? Is it any wonder, therefore, that they turn to crime as a sort of outlet and a way of hitting back at a community which has no place for them?

We must recognise that the primary cause of crime does not lie so much in the offenders themselves as in the fact that in their early youth we have not cared for them to a sufficient extent, educationally and otherwise, so that they will fit into the community and not have to turn to crime. The criminal tendencies of some of these people are just as much our fault as they are theirs. We should, above all, avoid seeking revenge on criminals when we are evolving our concept of punishment. We should seek to redress what we have not done for them in their youth. We should seek to redress these educational deficiencies. As far as possible, we should seek to enable those who are mentally defective to take their place in the community even if it be not as good a place as it would be if they had full mental capacity.

In approaching the question of what punishment should be given to people involved in crime, we should apply the concept that the punishment should fit the criminal and not the crime. The idea of having a blanket punishment for all people who commit a certain type of crime is not the right concept. Although a number of criminals may have committed the same type of crime they may have different needs in regard to treatment in order to be rehabilitated and they may have committed the crime for different reasons. The whole approach to sentencing should be based on the individual need of the criminal. We should ensure that whatever punishment is meted out to him is best calculated to bring about his rehabilitation and is best suited to his needs. There are certain deficiencies in our sentencing arrangements. Very often the judges giving these sentences are not fully aware of the treatment facilities which are available. Very often, too, they might not have visited these institutions. Furthermore, they have not the expertise in sociology, criminology, and so on, to gear the [158] punishment they award to the needs of the criminal who is before them. While leaving the determination of whether or not the person is guilty to the judges we should transfer the matter of sentence to a sentencing authority. This is the arrangement they have in California.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I doubt if that would arise on this Bill. The question of sentences would be a matter for the courts.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is important that we should realise that the conditions under which people are committed to institutions are of very great relevance to any prospect they might have of being rehabilitated in those institutions and a certain reference to this is essential if we are to ensure that our discussion is really relevant. In California this is a matter for an expert body of sociologists and psychologists who can go into the problems of the criminal in great depth, analyse him, find out the reason why he went into crime and prescribe an appropriate type of sentence and an appropriate type of treatment while he is in confinement and afterwards.

In this context there is a clear need to develop a more specialised type of treatment of criminals in our institutions. We cannot just lump them all together whether they are mentally defective, educationally defective, whether they have violent tendencies, whether they have a very low mental age, whether they are first offenders or recidivists. We cannot lump them all together into one type of institution. We must develop specialised institutions for different people in different age groups with different backgrounds and different criminal tendencies and they must be treated specially.

Instead of one, two or three big institutions we need to develop a number of smaller specialised institutions for different types of criminal. We need a specialised institution for criminals who are mentally defective so that they can be treated to enable them to be rehabilitated. We need a specialised type of institution for those who have a particularly low educational background. [159] We need a specialised institution for those who are first offenders and who, therefore, have, perhaps, the greatest prospect of rehabilitation and we need, of course, another type of institution for recidivists who have, perhaps, a low prospect though not by any means no prospect of rehabilitation. We also need special institutions with high security for those who have violent or psychopathic tendencies. I do not think we should have the same degree of security for those who do not have violent tendencies.

This is the way in which I feel the Minister is moving, judging by his speech, which, as I said last night, I regarded as a very good and compassionate speech. However, there is need for a greater degree of progress. Shanganagh Castle, which will accommodate approximately 55 to 60 people, is, in a way, only a token. It enables the Minister to say we have got an open prison but it is only nibbling at the problem. The number of people who can benefit from varying degrees of open institution and open prison are much greater than the number that can be accommodated in Shanganagh at the moment. We must seek to open up all our prison institutions in some way. This does not necessarily mean opening them up from the point of view of allowing people to walk out and walk in. We must open them up in other ways.

There is a danger that these institutions can become introverted, that they can be closed in on themselves. They have the staff living in the prison, the prisoners have little or no contact with people who are living in the outside community. Thus what they learn in the prison they cannot adapt to outside conditions which they will have to face and in which they will have to use whatever they learn in the prison. There is a need to ensure that there is greater contact with the outside world for all prisoners. This can be achieved by relaxing the visiting regulations and the regulations as to correspondence.

It can also be achieved by attracting a greater number of voluntary workers to go in and visit the prisoners in the prisons, particularly prisoners who do [160] not have many relatives. Such voluntary workers could visit a small number of prisoners regularly, take an interest in their problems while they are in prison, keep them informed of what is going on outside as regards job opportunities and then take a particular interest in them when they leave prison. There is a great need to attract voluntary help into the rehabilitation of prisoners and into contact with prisoners both in prison and afterwards.

There is a need for a vigorous advertising campaign on the part of the Department of Justice to attract voluntary effort. The voluntary effort of which they are getting the benefit at the moment is largely confined to religious organisations—the Salvation Army and the Legion of Mary. There is a need to widen the spectrum from which we are drawing voluntary help, to get people to come in—even on an individual basis, people who are not members of an organisation—to the prisons and to take an interest in the prisoners. This can be done if the Department of Justice make information available and, if necessary, advertise for this sort of assistance, if they go out and look for it and do not merely reluctantly accept help when it is offered.

There is also a need to develop a greater sense of responsibility among the prisoners for their own actions and for shaping their own environment in the prison. The big problem with these prisoners is, to a great extent, that they are not able to accept responsibility in the outside community, that they are not able to act responsibly as a result and this leads to crime. What happens in the prisons at the moment is that even the little responsibility they did have to exercise in the outside community is reduced, because lights are turned off for them, doors are closed for them, everything is done for them. Their whole life is regimented. They have to accept even less personal responsibility than they did in the outside community. It is quite possible that, as a result of this institutionalised treatment, they can become more and not less irresponsible for their actions. This is, in fact, a backward step. I feel there is a need to [161] adapt our institutional treatment to ensure they can develop more responsibility.

This can be done by giving them some responsibility through consultation procedures and so on in regard to the internal running of the prison. This, of course, will have to be approached in a very tentative way but I feel many prisoners, particularly the more intelligent ones, could make useful suggestions as to how the prison could be run without any question of there being a danger to security. I refer to mere routine matters—that they could be given responsibility for certain matters within the prison itself. Of course, there is a danger here of separating a certain class of prisoner from others, thus creating a gulf in the prison community between the “scabs” who are doing work for the prison officers and the good fellows who will not co-operate with them at all.

We must avoid that but, while avoiding that, we must seek to ensure that all prisoners take some responsibility for the running of the prison. If they are seen to be granted a share of responsibility in the running of the prison community, they will be able to accept some responsibility in the community outside and they will be able to adapt better to living in the outside community. There is the basic problem with criminals that they have not been able to adapt to living in the outside community and as a result they return to crime. Everything we do for them should be motivated by the idea that we are seeking to enable them to adapt to living in society and to accepting the responsibilities of life. Our prison institutions must seek to give them responsibility and not, so far as possible, to take it from them.

There are security limits which are, of course, paramount. Perhaps the most important way of all in ensuring that they adapt to the outside community is the concept of day-release for employment towards the end of their stay. Prisoners should be allowed to go out and work in the community, returning to prison at night. This is a “halfway house” existence between the prison and outside employment. Very often the big difficulty is that the first few days in the new job are the most [162] difficult. If the prisoners get over these days and stay in the job they are likely to stay for a longer time. It is important that they should encounter those days while they are actually under institutional care. If employment is available practically every prisoner, towards the end of his sentence, should be allowed out on day-release. While the Minister welcomes this idea in principle, in fact there has not been a great deal done towards implementing this scheme. The percentage of prisoners and the percentage of the through-put in any year in any prison who avail of day-release is six to seven per cent. This percentage has declined since 1966. In 1966, 42 prisoners were released on a day-release scheme from St. Patrick's Institution. In 1969 44 prisoners availed of this scheme. While this is an absolute increase, the prison population in St. Patrick's has risen more rapidly than that between 1966 and 1969, so the proportion of prisoners who are released on a daily basis from St. Patrick's has declined. This shows that there is not acceptance of the idea to the fullest extent. The day-release scheme is not being implemented in the way it should be implemented. It is something which should form part of the prison sentence of every prisoner. There should be a transitory stage in a prisoner's life when he is on day-release towards the end of his sentence.

The percentage of prisoners in Mountjoy who avail of day-release is also very small. It is six to seven per cent which is a very small percentage of the total number of prisoners. This percentage has not increased; possibly it has decreased since the scheme was initiated in 1966. I believe the Minister considers it a good idea. If this is so, we should see that the day-release scheme is extended to more prisoners than are availing of it at present.

Another important question is the placement of people in jobs to ensure that the right person is put into the right job. The welfare officers look for the jobs and find out what jobs are available. It is quite another thing to ensure that the right man is put into the right job. This is something of which an educational psychologist, of [163] whom we have been talking already, would be aware. No educational psychologist has yet been appointed. It is important that there should be no further delay in respect of such appointment. We need more information about training facilities in St. Patrick's and in the prison service in general. We need to know how much time is spent each day on training in the different techniques and what standards on some objective scale are reached by the prisoners. It is not enough to enumerate the subjects taught without telling us what time is spent and what standard is reached.

We must take a look at the training of prison officers. There is in-service training for prison officers at present. This is to be extended. Prison officers are to get a course from the department of psychology in UCD. We should try to ensure that these people are trained before they start work. People should not be put in to work as prison officers unless they have received some basic minimal training in the various techniques involved. The reason given for not having this training is that the intake to the prison service is irregular. People are coming in as the vacancies arise. This should not be an insuperable difficulty when dealing with the pre-service training of prison officers. We have the juvenile liaison scheme. The intake is irregular here also but there is a two-week pre-service training course for this job. Why cannot there be a similar course for those who are going into the prison service? If the question of irregular intake is all that difficult, why can there not be a specific day in the year for taking in officers? This might involve having a slightly larger number of prison officers to ensure that, with the wastage during the year, the number does not drop below the necessary standard. The extra number involved would not be very great. There is an argument for applying the same methods as in employment for other jobs and for having a regular date for entry and regular pre-service courses. In Great Britain there is a course of six or eight weeks pre-service training for prison officers. I concede that it is easier for them to have these courses because they [164] have more prison officers and a greater intake. I cannot see why we could not send some of our prison officers to England to avail of these courses until such time as we are able to set up a similar course here ourselves.

It is evident that the remuneration of officers in the prison service has not kept pace with the remuneration of the rest of the community. There is difficulty in getting recruits. It is likely that some of the difficulty is caused because of the inadequate remuneration. The prison officers at present have been attuned to the idea that they are turnkeys and that their job is purely a security one. Prison regulations dealing with the duties of the prison officers are concerned almost exclusively with their security role. There is very little mention of their duties in regard to rehabilitation. All the matters which are enumerated in the regulations are questions of the locks they must turn, et cetera. In rule 114, which I have mentioned before in this House, the prison officers are forbidden to become familiar with the prisoners or to speak unnecessarily to them. If this rule is to be enforced and the prison officers cannot get familiar with the prisoners or get to know them how can they exercise a genuinely rehabilitative role in regard to prisoners? There is a clear need for revision of these regulations. While the emphasis cannot be taken off security altogether, there is need for emphasis in regard to the role of the prison officer in rehabilitation to ensure that each officer gets to know the prisoner and has a particular responsibility for a number of prisoners. This is being done at present in Shanganagh. It is a good thing. There is a question of introducing the house-master system where a particular officer has responsibility for eight or ten prisoners. I cannot see why this system of house-mastering has to be confined to Shanganagh. There is every reason for applying it in all prisons and to have particular prison officers responsible for a particular number of prisoners. In this way they become acquainted with the prisoners. They can thus make a useful contribution towards their rehabilitation and find out what the problems of the prisoners are. In turn, [165] this can be related to the treatment they are given so that it will be possible to find a place for them in the outside community.

There is another rule, rule 165, to which I should like to refer. That rule specifies that the chaplain is responsible for the mental welfare of the prisoners. No other person is explicitly given this responsibility. I do not believe that the mental welfare of prisoners should be the sole responsibility of the chaplain. The whole prison service should be concerned with his mental welfare.

Minister for Justice (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  So they are.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If so, it is not specifically laid down in the regulations. When the regulations are being revised we should spread that responsibility. Up to now I have been talking about the institutional treatment of prisoners. Even the most modern and enlightened type of institutional treatment has not achieved by any standards the proven results of treatment of criminals outside institutions. Probation is, perhaps, the only form of treatment of criminals which statistics have proved to be really effective and it is in this field that we should look for the greatest development in the near future. We can do this not only from the point of view of achieving results but also from the point of view of cost. The cost of keeping a prisoner in an institution works out at about £800 or £900 a year. I know that to employ a probation officer would, perhaps, cost twice as much as that but the officer could be given responsibility for 15 or 16 criminals outside an institution. Therefore, it will be seen that treatment of criminals outside an institution is much cheaper than their treatment inside institutions. In this regard I must welcome what is suggested in the Minister's speech in relation to expanding the probation service.

We must seek to reduce greatly the case load of each probation officer. The average case load at the moment is 60. In other words, in a given week the probation officer must see and take an interest in 60 persons. This possibly involves a considerable amount of travel with the result that he is likely to spend [166] only about 15 minutes each week with each probationer. This is totally inadequate. For a probation service to be effective it would be necessary to reduce the case load of each probation officer to 15 or 16 probationers so that the officer can share in their recreational activities and also go around with the probationer and help him to find a job if he has not already got one. A case load of 60 rules out this possibility almost entirely and what probably happens is that the person on probation calls at the office of the probation officer for a few minutes each week where he is more or less patted on the head and asked how he is getting on.

The personality of the probation officer is of very great importance. It is not enough that he should be highly qualified—most of them have degrees in social science and other subjects from the universities—but it is also important that he should have the necessary personality traits for the job. He should be a gregarious person who gets along well with people. In this context, perhaps, some form of course in probation could be developed either in our universities or by the Department of Justice. I do not know much about this but as far as I know there is no such course at the moment. This is a highly specialised field so that we should consider developing a course in probation. At any rate, our aim should be towards reducing the case load of each probation officer to 15 or 16 probationers. This may seem expensive but it is much less expensive than keeping the people in prisons and, as I have said, it has proven results. Therefore, it would also be in the interests of the taxpayers that this should be done. At the same time, any attempt to impose economic considerations into this field in a narrow sense without taking into account the possible rehabilitation prospects would be unwise.

Another point in this regard is that probation in Ireland, in so far as I know, is applied only to juvenile offenders. It has been shown that probation can play as beneficial a rehabilitative role for older criminals as it does for younger ones. Therefore, [167] in developing the probation service we should incorporate all types of offenders and, where possible, we should tend to put people on probation rather than to send them to prison. Confining them to an institution may give us a certain amount of satisfaction but it cannot produce the same results as rehabilitation. The whole question of sentencing should be reviewed and there should be greater emphasis on treatment of offenders in the community as against their treatment in institutions.

Another question which should be considered is that of the visiting committees. I am afraid that the visiting committees to prisons are not as critical as they should be or, perhaps, they are but the critical parts of their reports are suppressed. A perusal of the prison reports will reveal that only extracts from the reports of the visiting committees are published. These committees are independent bodies; they are the watchdogs for the community on the prisons. The fact that only extracts of their reports are published leaves one open to suspect that the critical parts are effectively suppressed —at least they are suppressed to the extent that they are not made available to the public. Another possible interpretation is that the visiting committees themselves are not critical at all. As I pointed out, they tend in their reports to use the same phraseology in referring to different aspects of the prisons, in regard to the food and so on. When they can more or less copy out large chunks of last year's reports for inclusion in this year's report, it suggests they are not adopting a very critical attitude towards the prisons. It is quite possible that in the parts of the reports which are not published they adopt a more critical approach, and I should not like to pre-judge this matter. However, I hope that in relation to the revision of the annual prison report, which was indicated to me yesterday by the Minister in answer to a question I asked, we will in future publish the whole of the report and not just selected extracts which could possibly be suspected of being the more pleasant parts from the Minister's point of view.

[168] Another point is that of the total number of 48 members of the visiting committees there is only one social worker among them. This is inadequate. There should be many more social workers. There is a need to extend the membership to include people with expertise in criminology, penology and social problems so that they would be able to be critical of prisons in relation to rehabilitation and so on. That is not in any way to decry the work of the existing members of the visiting committees who are doing voluntary work of a very laudable character. I asked a question yesterday about the prison reports and it is a fact that the prison reports for 1967, 1968 and 1969 are not yet available.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The Deputy was told they are about to be published.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I was, yes, but I believe that when this House is considering the Prisons Bill they should have up-to-date reports available to them and the Minister should have taken steps to ensure these reports would have been available to Members before they were asked to consider this Bill. The fact that they are told the reports will be available in two or three weeks time is no use to them from the point of view of using the information that will be in the reports. This is most regrettable. It is said the reason for not printing the 1967 and 1968 reports was that it was necessary to up-date the format of the report. It should not take three years to do that if any serious effort were put into it. We should ensure that in future these reports are brought out much more promptly than in the past.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The 1969 report will be published next month.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am aware of that, but this has not been the practice in the past. Section 4 of this Bill will apply for the time being the 1947 rules to the new institution of Shanganagh. I hope every effort will be made to bring these rules up to date in certain respects. I mentioned before the question of the role of prison officers, that their duties as laid down in the rules are confined almost entirely to security duties. Any [169] new rules which will be brought in and which will be applied to Shanganagh as well as to our other institutions should stress more the rehabilitative role of prison officers than the security role.

Rule 54 refers to secular instruction, instead of work, in reading, writing and arithmetic for prisoners who need this type of instruction. I wonder if this rule is implemented vigorously and if all prisoners who need this training are given it and not being made use of as mere manual workers in the prison. This is a good rule but I am afraid it may not be implemented sufficiently vigorously.

Rule 12 provides for the classification of prisoners on entry to the prison. It requires the taking of particulars in regard to name, age, height etc. It is not enough, in classifying a prisoner and determining what sort of treatment he is to get, merely to take note of physical characteristics. Classification should be greatly extended to include criminal background, mental capacity, mental problems and so on. I hope these rules will be revised pretty soon because the whole concept of prison treatment has greatly changed since 1947 when these rules were originally drawn up.

There are a few points I wish to raise in relation to the Minister's speech. He said in the second paragraph that not every prisoner has the basic stability to allow of his being sent to an open centre like Shanganagh. It is quite possible, therefore, that the prisoners with stability, those who, perhaps, it could be argued, are least in need of treatment, will get the best treatment. We must also know what sort of improved treatment will be available for those who have not got the basic stability to be moved to Shanganagh, because these people without this stability are the people with the biggest problem. It is important they should not be left behind in an old fashioned institution. As I said earlier, we should open up all our prisons and the question of opening up our prisons to community influences should not be confined to the few prisoners at present being sent to Shanganagh.

[170] The Minister refers to the question of recruiting suitable staff for Shanganagh. We need some more details as to what “suitable” means in this context, what type of staff will be recruited and what type of qualifications will they have. It says here also that instruction in the three Rs will be given daily in Shanganagh. I hope this instruction will be better than that which has been given to date in St. Patrick's, which I do not think is of a very high standard. I am not sure about this, but people who need instruction in the three Rs are very often people who have to be given what you might call remedial education. They are people who have to catch up. It is clear in regard to educational matters that the people who need remedial education need better quality education than the people who are getting education in the ordinary way at the correct age. You need fewer students per teacher in respect of remedial education than in respect of ordinary education. Many people in those institutions are getting remedial education. We should ensure that an adequate number of teachers is available to give the required individual treatment to ensure that those people catch up in respect of the three Rs. I understand there is only one teacher teaching the three Rs in St. Patrick's Institution at present and that the average population there is 195. If one assumes that half of those people are getting education in the Rs this would indicate that you would have a class of 100 and only one teacher. This certainly is not in accordance with the need of having fewer students per teacher in remedial education.

We are told that a grading system has been introduced to provide incentives for the detainees and to reward their efforts rather than their accomplishments. This is a very good thing although in fact such a grading system was provided for under the 1947 rules so there is nothing new in regard to this proposal. There is a point the Minister makes later in his speech that prisoners are given 7s gratuity per week for work done and that this is pocket money. There is an argument for not having this at the flat rate of 7s per week. We should try in some way to [171] give more to those who make the greatest effort and less to those who do not. A flat rate of 7s is not the right approach.

We are also told that reconviction rates are being compiled but they will not have any real significance until figures for a minimum “follow-up” period of two or three years become available. This is in relation to Shanganagh. There is need for much more detailed statistics in relation to reconviction rates for all types of prisoners, not just those leaving Shanganagh. We have figures for the number of people committed in a given year who were previously committed, but we do not have a breakdown as to whether this is the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth conviction. The case of a person who goes back for a second conviction is not as serious as the person who goes back for perhaps a sixth conviction. We need to have in future a breakdown in regard to whether this is the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth conviction and also some information as to the age, education and background of the people who have been reconvicted.

Reconviction rates are not the only acceptable yardstick for the effectiveness of a prison institution. It is not just enough to say that so many people did not come back. It is quite possible that after leaving prison, although they might not have returned to crime, they are still maladjusted individuals. Even though they do not return to crime they might not be successful in finding a place in the community. We should try to have a greater follow-up of those people to find out whether they have got employment and how they are adapting themselves to life in general. This would be a useful way of measuring the success of our penal treatment.

Section 6 of the Bill proposes to reduce the maximum age for persons who are remanded or committed to St. Patrick's Institution from 21 to 19 and that people over 19 will in general go to prison. It is not appropriate to lump all people from 19 upwards in one institution. We need a special institution for those people between the ages of 19 and 22 because the young offender is a different type of offender [172] from the older offender. Young offenders are very often people who will not repeat their offence when they get married and accept their responsibility in the community. However, they are people who are maladjusted and this maladjustment is likely to continue even though they might not return to crime. We should certainly have an institution to deal with those young offenders between the ages of 19 to 22. There is need for a third type of institution between St. Patrick's and the ordinary prison to deal with the people in that age group.

The Minister mentioned that St. Patrick's Institution has taken on more and more the character of a centre for the detention of young offenders serving short terms. It is very important also that we should have a separate institution for young offenders who are serving long terms because people who are serving longer terms can be given more intensive training in various skills to help them to adapt themselves to work in the community. We should not lump all types of short-term and long-term people into the one institution because people who are only there for a short term cannot acquire the necessary training. When you try to cater for short-term people you are likely to hold back the training of those who are on a long-term basis and who can avail of longer term training facilities.

The Minister said that the growing pressure on accommodation made it necessary last year to encroach further on the cell accommodation remaining for the female prison. We are adopting the wrong approach here in that we are anticipating a growing pressure on accommodation in the prison. If we can move towards the emphasis which I am advocating that their treatment in the community would be by means of probation rather than institutional care or imprisonment there is no reason why there should be a growing pressure on accommodation. The adoption of more in-community treatment would solve a lot of the problems here.

The Minister states that Marlborough House is expected to be closed this year on the opening of a new preventive centre at Finglas. We need from him or some other Minister [173] more information on what is involved in this preventive centre. What will be done there? This word “preventive” is a new word here and we should be given some information about what is involved in this preventive centre. The Minister also speaks about the appointment of a psychologist. This has been spoken about for years but nothing has been done about it. The Minister recognises the point I have been making when he says:

Moreover, the environment of an institution is basically unsuitable for encouraging individuals to become adequate and responsible members of normal society. It is an entirely artificial community and the high degree of uniformity which is unavoidable militates against the development of responsibility and of a person's individual character.

I think this is a very laudable sentiment, with which I agree entirely. However, we must see some definite indications that it will be acted on in connection with a policy for the treatment of prisoners in the future.

The Minister said that temporary release is a significant step forward. Certainly it is, but I am afraid it is not being applied nearly as vigorously as it should be.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The Deputy's colleague, Deputy Fitzpatrick, complained that too many were being released.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I do not agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick on that point. Deputy Browne expressed doubt on the wisdom of having instruction in car driving and repairs. His approach to it was very tentative and I do not think he had given it any great thought. I regard it as a very important matter because, as the Minister pointed out, people who are able to drive can find employment much more easily than those who are not. I suggest we should have information as to how many prisoners are given this instruction. It is one thing to say that this facility is available but it is another thing to ensure that a substantial number of prisoners avail of instruction in car [174] driving and repair. It might be possible that only four, five or six prisoners get such instruction in a year. I should be glad if the Minister gave us the figures.

I welcome the Minister's discussions with AnCO in efforts to ensure that the training given in these establishments is of the most suitable kind to equip prisoners for industrial employment. Such co-ordination is desirable and I must congratulate the Minister and the Department on this improvement.

The Minister referred to prison diet and there has been discussion here on it. He commended Deputy Tunney on what he had said, to the effect that prison diet is as good as that of many breadwinners outside. I asked for information about the cost per prisoner per week in respect of food and I was told it is 22s. There are very few people outside who live on a diet costing 22s a week. It is, therefore, evident that a prisoner's diet is not a luxurious one, to say the least of it. On the question of butter and margarine, it is margarine which is used entirely. We are an agricultural country and I suggest that a proportion of butter should be used. I am not seeking to discriminate against margarine, which is also produced here, but we should ensure that a certain amount of butter is used.

I welcome the course for prison officers which has been arranged with the department of psychology in UCD. The Minister mentioned the loyalty and discipline of the service which was impressively shown towards the end of last year when disturbances occurred in Mountjoy and Portlaoise. The Minister paid a tribute to all the officers concerned, some of whom were injured. On behalf of my party and, I am sure, on behalf of all on this side of the House, I should like to join in that tribute. Great credit is due to the prison officers for their handling of those unfortunate occurrences.

The Minister mentioned the possible utilisation of voluntary workers and he said every effort is being made to utilise them to the fullest possible extent. I suggest that efforts should be made to get the co-operation of organisations in addition to the Salvation Army and the Legion of Mary.

[175] In conclusion I should first of all like to repeat my welcome for this Bill and for the Minister's opening statement which outlines so many reforms. Section 3 (1) of the Bill states that the Minister may, by regulations, specify by reference to age and sex the classes of persons who may be detained in a place provided under section 2. I suggest we need criteria other than age and sex in such regulations.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The regulations would not be confined to those. Those two qualifications are necessary but the regulations can go beyond that.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Would there be any objection to inserting a provision——

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  An intellectual qualification?

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We might need an amendment.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I do not think it is necessary to put it into the Bill. This can be dealt with in the regulations.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There is the point that the opportunity to discuss regulations in the House is not as good as on the Bill. This matter is arguable. It is important that we should have a discussion on the criteria and if they are incorporated only in the regulations we will not have that opportunity.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The regulations will have to be laid before the Dáil and the Deputy could put down a motion in connection with them.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I know that, but I think it is desirable that they should be discussed in relation to the Bill. At any rate, there is a need to open up the whole question of prisons to make provision for community involvement so as to ensure that prisoners can adapt what they learn to life outside. We should not be afraid to be described as eggheads because we use psychological methods. We should not be afraid to give prisoners more responsibility in regard to the running of prisons. We should give the public more information about what is going on in the prisons and, therefore, we should not issue prison reports which are almost [176] secretive. We need to ensure also in this context that whatever we do in regard to individual prisoners is associated with their psychological and criminal backgrounds. We should learn to treat criminals outside as being part of the community and help them to adapt to life outside.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I should like to be associated with my colleagues in the Labour Party and with Deputies Bruton and Fitzpatrick in welcoming this measure and in congratulating the Minister for having introduced the Bill in such a comprehensive manner. The Minister should also be congratulated for having placed before the House not merely an analysis of the amendments proposed in penal legislation but more particularly for giving to us his detailed personal views and the views of the professional staff of the Department on prison reform generally. We in the Labour Party have found that the comprehensive statement of the Minister is an indication that we may revise our circumspect opinions in relation to prisons. This augurs well, and I am not speaking in a patronising way to the Minister.

I particularly welcome the Bill as a public representative in whose constituency the semi-open institution of Shanganagh is situated, on the borders of Shankill village. It is my hope that that semi-open institution, with accommodation for suitable first offenders— I detest the term “inmate”; would the Minister not consider deleting it?——

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  “Prisoner” is worse.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I do not think it is beyond our ingenuity to delete both terms. I do not regard Shanganagh as being ideal but I welcome the set-up in the institution. Although admittedly the Department and the prison staffs have had two years experience of running this institution, and although admittedly it is still in the experimental stages, I feel strongly that it will become a vital part of the evolution of a more effective, a more humane and a more democratic penal system in this country.

Therefore, I welcome the comments of the Minister. I have not any special [177] insight into penal practices but I consider there are a number of points worthy of mention in this House. The professional staffs of the Department of Justice work in these institutions in extremely difficult conditions. They must possess an exceptionally high degree of training and understanding. At the same time, they must maintain normal discipline and be able to develop effective relationships with the persons committed to these institutions. By and large, the staffs concerned are not accorded either the level of training, of pay or general conditions of service that are essential to attract and retain in the service men and women of the high calibre required. There is an urgent need for the new Minister and for all the parties to review in a comprehensive and effective manner the conditions of service of prison officers, of governor grades and the new ancillary categories of staff.

So far as actual prison conditions are concerned, there does not seem to be any really effective long-term policy in the Department of Justice on the future role of our penal institutions. I think Deputy Bruton and Deputy Fitzpatrick would concur with me that we have spent many thousands of pounds on maintenance and reconstruction of institutions such as Mountjoy and St. Patrick's when it might have been wiser to seek alternative sites convenient to Dublin and construct modern detention centres. By doing this I consider we would now have a more effective system in operation. I stress this point because, notwithstanding the efforts of the Department staff and the associated Government agencies, I am convinced there is an urgent need to get rid of the old, grim, Victorian structures of Mountjoy and St. Patrick's and many of the other needlessly unpleasant features which still exist in our prisons.

In Ireland we have developed a more modern attitude towards prison conditions in the past few years but we are still far behind much of the advanced European thinking on this matter. We have a long way to go before we catch up with the modern evolution of prison reform on the Continent and even in certain parts of Britain. There are many aspects of prison life which need [178] reform: there is the matter of prison dress, the censorship of letters, the restriction and supervision of visits, cheap labour, the discharge of prisoners and, in particular, the insurance situation where employment cards are not given to prisoners. All of these are justified by the Department as being necessary evils and due to lack of facilities. However, to an objective outsider, and particularly to the prisoners themselves, these aspects of prison life can only be regarded as a continuation of outdated policies and of what might be called a perverse attitude in the matter of punishment and general human degradation.

Notwithstanding the enlightened statement of the Minister, there is going to be considerable difficulty in convincing the public at large that they must advocate improved conditions in our penal institutions. We must get rid of the idea that transgressors must suffer, that unless they suffer to the limits of the law their crimes will not be expiated and they will not be reformed. This moralistic assumption is inbred in our attitude to prison life and punishment and until there is a change of public opinion a great deal of the work and the enlightened attitude in the Department of Justice will come to nothing. I am of the opinion —this is generally accepted among those concerned with prison reform— that prolonged imprisonment is more likely to have deformative effects on the mind and outlook of those subjected to it rather than reformative.

When inmates, to use that horrible term, suffer deliberate punitive methods in prisons, these are more likely to aggravate the human defects they already suffer from than reform them. I submit there is an obligation on the prison system, even if it cannot make better men and women out of those committed to its charge, to ensure it does not make them worse. The main purpose of modern methods in our prisons, institutions and juvenile detention centres is to seek to counter, as strenuously as possible, the danger inherent in prolonged confinement of the deterioration of the moral fibre of the prisoners as well as of their mental and physical well-being. I am not suggesting [179] that the same degree of impact occurs on those serving short sentences; nevertheless, I think this aspect is worthy of consideration by the new Minister for Justice.

There is a great need to replace the negative aspects of prison life, the repressive aspects of institutional custodial life, with something positive and constructive. All sentences should be designed to encourage the reawakening and the development of self-respect in the prisoners themselves. The only way this can be done is by having these virtues practised in prisons.

I welcome the Minister's intention to develop more open prisons. There is nothing particularly new about open prisons. The First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held in Geneva in 1955, defined an open prison as characterised by the absence of material or physical precautions against escape (such as walls, locks, bars, armed or other special security guards) and by a system based on self-discipline and the inmate's sense of responsibility towards the group in which he lives. The congress concluded that the open institution marks an important step in the development of modern prison systems and represents one of the most successful applications of the principle of the individualisation of penalties with a view to social readjustment. It recommended the extension of the open system to the largest possible number of prisoners, subject to certain conditions suggested for the proper working of the system. This is of particular importance in penal and prison reform in this country.

It is always dangerous for the public representative to say this, but I believe there is a residue of public ignorance in relation to the question of crime, and a great deal of superficial public reaction to questions of crime and prison reform. There is therefore a tremendous obligation on the Department of Justice and on Members of this House to try to develop a more enlightened public attitude on this question. Most people do not think about the prison system until a member of their own family, a neighbour's child or an acquaintance gets a prison sentence.

[180] I concur with the courageous admission made by the Minister about employment for prisoners. In his speech he said the provision of suitable employment for prisoners was one of special difficulty. He pointed out that the present gratuity paid to prisoners is 7s a week and that this cannot be regarded as being anything more than pocket money. If one is sentenced to a term of imprisonment, whether for a couple of months or a couple of years, I do not think the sum of 7s a week payment for prison labour, which is, after all, only the price of 30 cigarettes, can be regarded as anything but a personal insult. When their sentences are up these prisoners are expected to resume a normal role in society and perhaps even maintain a family. The provision of suitable and normal employment for prisoners should be the subject of great consideration by both the Minister and his Department.

I can assure the Minister I am not unaware of the difficulties involved. I am not unaware that some employers will start shouting their heads off about the use of cheap labour; equally, some trade unionists may feel that prisoners working on a particular job may affect their particular employment. I am not unaware of the difficulties of training prisoners in skilled or semi-skilled work. I would particularly encourage training in the construction and engineering industries because prisoners are likely to obtain employment in these industries when they are released. I feel the work done by the interdepartmental committee for the employment of prisoners should be reassessed by the Minister. I am not entirely certain whether or not this committee is still in existence.

The Minister did mention the interdepartmental committee for the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders, but I would suggest that a special internal committee to deal with the question of the provision of employment for prisoners should be set up. I should like to see a special committee set up on a national basis, representative of employers, trade unions, prison staffs, specialist staffs and so on. This could be of immense value in breaking down many of the existing barriers. [181] The day has gone when it was accepted that the work of the prisoner, be he a juvenile offender or an adult criminal, must be made as hard and as degrading as possible. This concept is now being abandoned and the general idea is that reform is constituted of a great deal more than merely keeping prisoners out of mischief or making sure that lazy prisoners do some work.

I welcome the Minister's statement in regard to prison employment. I have no doubt that the introduction of a board, together with a comprehensive and effective system of employment, will ensure that prisoners will make the best possible contribution to the community in general while serving their sentences. Because sentences are for the most part of short duration it is extremely difficult to give any proper training for employment, but if work is properly scheduled and organised there is no reason why rehabilitation and reintegration should be difficult. If Deputies had experience of the timetable in Mountjoy they would emerge very shattered. It is archaic, to say the least of it. I am sure the prison staff could make many suggestions for improvement, suggestions which the Minister should consider. If suitable employment is properly integrated into the timetable it could make a very valuable contribution towards the training of prisoners before they leave prison. Many of our young offenders have very little experience of anything other than casual work. Many of them find themselves in dead-end jobs. If they could be educated during their time in prison into appreciating what a typical industrial job is like and what it requires this could have a very healthy effect. As it is, they have no proper concept of working under normal working conditions and they are completely unaware of this particular type of human activity. I am not overstressing the situation. If they are given this kind of experience they will have a far better chance of getting a job on discharge and, more important still, of keeping it. But that will not be the pattern if they are occupied in wholly ineffective employment during the duration of their stay.

I do not suggest that prison employment [182] alone is the only internal reform required, but it is most important. If the young prisoner or the juvenile detainee cannot get employment in the critical three or four weeks after discharge then a very small incident— perhaps the reaction of a prospective employer or of a member of his own family—sets in train again a pattern that one is trying to correct and I suggest to the Minister that a great deal depends on prisoners being given confidence in themselves while they are in prison and confidence in their ability to do a job in industry as an alternative to making a living through crime.

I have had some very small experience of trying to get trade union membership cards for young offenders just out of prison to ensure their being integrated into a normal industrial environment and the one quality I found lacking in most of them was the feeling of their personal incapacity to do a job, even when they were given a job and were looked after by a trade union secretary. This total failure in confidence is quite contrary to the popular conception of what a prisoner is like on discharge. I would stress this to the Minister from the point of view of welfare and discharge care. It is of major importance.

I can never understand why prisoners in our society should be completely debarred from access to the outside world. I could never appreciate the ultra-moralistic concept that one takes a man out of normal living and cuts him completely off from ordinary social conditions. Then, on discharge, he is expected to re-integrate himself into society. I suggest there should be full access to wireless and television. That is the only hope. That might be the popular wish, but there is also the popular conception that not only must freedom be withdrawn but normal human involvement must also be cut off. This is an inbred attitude to crime and punishment in our community and it is almost impossible to convince people that, by taking this attitude, one is only increasing criminal propensity instead of eradicating it. The worst punishment is the withdrawal of freedom.

[183] We get the kind of juvenile delinquent we deserve. I detest the term “juvenile delinquent”. I do not think anyone has defined it. I find these terms on the whole most unsatisfactory. The Minister might examine them in the context of future development. I am sure Spiro Agnew would not share my sentiments, but time will tell where he is concerned. There is a good deal of talk—I do not suggest political parties have contributed to it—about forging ahead. I see a great deal of the suburban rat race in which so much emphasis is laid on the acquisition of the trappings of what is regarded as the good life, the acquisition of the consumer goods which allegedly symbolise the development of human status in our contemporary society. You see this tremendous pressure, epitomised by RTE advertising and newspaper advertising, and the general goals and ideals held up as being the life which people should live, and you see these goals being accepted by the vast majority of our population as normal in our society. Then take somebody coming from a poor background, a deprived family, somebody whose mental capacity is perhaps innately in some respects subnormal or deprived in many ways and he sees that many other sectors of the community are striving and racing after these success symbols, and when he stumbles when put under the same pressure, inevitably he develops the idea of taking the illegitimate, illegal shortcuts to gain these success symbols. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that he might in future warn society at large against unleashing unrealistic and unattainable aspirations among many sections of our community. The consumer orientated status society in which we live has aroused aspirations—not only aroused them but frustrated them in many respects —and as a result we get the criminals, the juvenile delinquents and the people that we deserve to get from that approach.

I suggest that this is a dangerous tendency in society. We do not need any moralistic lectures about the dangers of materialism but I think it is a tendency which the Minister should [184] in future discourage. I have no doubt that he will do so much more effectively but in a much more humane manner than by adopting the out-dated attitudes his predecessor at times tended to adopt in such matters. I do not accept, notwithstanding the growth in our prison population and the development of a more effective penal system, this Jeremiah view which is so popular, particularly in America and in many parts of Britain, epitomised by the Conservative Party attitude and epitomised by some of the attitudes of some of the backbenchers of some of the parties in this House: that society at large has become much more immoral and has generally declined in terms of moralistic propriety in this country and in Europe as a whole. It is by no means established, as yet, that either in this or in any other country in Europe the average family is less stable or less cohesive or less integrated than, say, 20 years ago. When we look upon the social changes that have occurred in this country even in the past decade, I think it is true to say that the television set has resulted in families becoming more home centred and that social life centred around the local pub has, perhaps, declined among certain sections of the community.

We have shorter working hours, better housing conditions. We have had a considerable increase in our standard of living and an enormous increase in household goods. We have a better system of education—for which the Opposition parties, I would submit, are as much responsible as the Government—and we have greater leisure to enjoy these benefits. As a result we have had a considerable breakdown in the rigid roles of parents. Husbands, in particular, now take a more active interest in their homes and children. As a result, many public-houses have lost custom which they had down the years. These are social developments with a profound impact on the lessening of crime and instability among our people and on the opening up of society.

While, admittedly, there are new problems such as drugs and new social pressures and so on, it is my view that the general moral health of our [185] young people is better now than in the twenties or thirties or even the fifties and sixties.

These points I am putting to the Minister are of a somewhat general nature but they are of considerable importance. I do not favour public relations officers in Government Departments as such but I think the public relations of his Department could be better. Equally, I would suggest that Deputies should have an opportunity of visiting the institutions under the Department. I know there is the fact, and I agree with it, that a Member of this House has no special privileges in regard to visiting any constituent who may be in prison and that he has to seek the permission of the Minister. But if a State-sponsored body such as Aer Lingus can invite Deputies to go up in a jet and fly around Dublin and then discuss with the general manager of Aer Lingus the role of the company, why should we not have an opportunity of visiting Mountjoy? I have been there before on visitation. Why could we not visit Shanganagh and other institutions in groups and meet the staffs and the governors? I have no doubt the departmental staff would accept that a more enlightened knowledge by public representatives of what happens in these institutions would contribute to more effective debate here.

In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister on his comprehensive introductory speech on this Bill which was of a very high order. I certainly welcome and support this Bill and I have no doubt that it augurs well for the Minister's future tenure of office.

Minister for Justice (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I should like to welcome the thoughtful and constructive contributions made by all Deputies who spoke. I think everybody who spoke had a really worthwhile point of view to put. I particularly appreciate that the Bill was approached in the proper spirit—it was a non-party approach and I think there was a great deal of agreement on both sides of the House as to what is desirable. Unfortunately, as Minister, while I agree with a great deal of what has been suggested as desirable, I am not in [186] a position to agree that in all cases it is practicable for financial and other reasons.

I should like to refer particularly to Deputy Tunney's contribution to this debate and to thank him for what he said, but in particular to thank him and through him to thank all the other members of the visiting committees to our prisons and to St. Patrick's for the work of great public service which they are doing without any great publicity and, perhaps, without any great thanks. Their services are given voluntarily and are not as fully appreciated by the public as they might be.

Unfortunately I have not yet had an opportunity to make as detailed a study as I would wish of prison rehabilitation and the reform of our criminal procedures. Indeed, all of what is proposed in the Bill and a great deal of what I referred to in my speech is the work and the creation of my predecessor. I should like to take this opportunity, as Deputy Bruton and other Deputies have done in this debate, to pay tribute to him for the very special efforts which he made in this regard during his term of office.

I shall open my reply with some fairly general remarks. I propose later to deal with some of the specific problems referred to by individual Deputies. One of the first things I should say is that I am very keen that my Department and, indeed, all concerned with prisons and offenders should endeavour to co-ordinate the efforts of all agencies whether departmental, local authority, or voluntary, and work together towards the end which it is clear from this debate we all desire to achieve—the rehabilitation of prisoners and their reintegration in society as people who are able to contribute and play a responsible part.

Much of the debate was concentrated on the reforms and improvements that are necessary in the institutional side of our penal system. I was glad to hear many Deputies place special emphasis on what needs to be done on the non-institutional side. I see this in the long run as perhaps the more important of the two. I made it clear in my opening speech, and it was reiterated very [187] strongly and very well by Deputy Dr. Browne, that the very fact of being detained in an institution has an undoubted detrimental effect on the average individual. This is particularly so where he may be inadequate socially or intellectually.

Not alone from the point of view of benefiting society and benefiting the individual offender but also from the purely economic point of view, as Deputy Bruton pointed out this morning, I think we should try to direct our efforts to the greatest possible extent to the non-institutional care of offenders. It has been demonstrated that this is more effective both for society and for the offender. Those reasons in themselves are more than sufficient to justify concentrating an increasing proportion of our resources on non-institutional services such as probation officers and welfare officers.

I suppose I would be optimistic to think that I could reverse a national trend in crime which is part of a worldwide trend but a greater impact can perhaps be made by concentrating on the non-institutional forms of treatment. It was for these reasons that I announced the proposal to strengthen very considerably the Dublin probation service, to increase it from six to 13 officers and to appoint eight officers in the Provinces where unfortunately, there has been no full-time probation or welfare service at all. As Deputies will appreciate, this is a very considerable increase in non-institutional services. One might as well be can did about it and say that up to now they have been grossly unsatisfactory.

I want to go further than this and assure the House that if I find that the increases proposed are still not sufficient, I will certainly appoint further probation and welfare officers in Dublin and in the Provinces. I see this as a more beneficial and a more economic use of our resources. These were my own feelings on the matter before I came into the House yesterday for this debate and they have been reinforced by the very worthwhile contributions made by all Deputies who spoke. A very high measure of agreement in regard to these matters has been displayed in the House and a very helpful [188] and responsible approach has been adopted by all Deputies.

The speech which disturbed me most perhaps was that of Deputy Dr. Browne. In the course of his speech he acknowledged very freely that his views were not typical and might well be rejected by a great many people. I am glad he acknowledged that himself and that it is not necessary for me alone to point that out. At the same time, I think I should not let some of his remarks with regard to the punitive aspect or element in our penal system pass without making some comment on them.

Deputy Dr. Browne seems to feel that the sole motivation in our penal system is this punitive element or aspect. I would beg leave to disagree rather fundamentally with him. There must of necessity be a considerable element of punishment in any deprivation of liberty. Even if someone were confined in the most luxurious hotel in Dublin there would still, by virtue of the deprivation of liberty, be a considerable punitive element. I suppose there is also some punitive element in restriction on visits and letters. This restriction is necessary in the interests of security. Outside of that it is quite wrong to suggest that there is any other punitive attitude or motivation in our treatment of offenders.

I cannot see how we can use any system of detention that has not got that unavoidable element of punishment in it. This is not the way the prison staff approach their duties. Perhaps it is unfair to Deputy Dr. Browne to say that he appeared to imply that the staff are there to punish the prisoners rather than help them. I should like to refer the House to some of the comments I made in my opening speech. I said:

Here may I say that the quality of any service is only as good as that of the people who provide it. The prison service is no exception. It requires of the staff qualities of sympathy and understanding and, where necessary, firmness and control. I believe our service has these qualities to a high degree ...

I think it should be pointed out that [189] the prison officers are Christian men who do their best to alleviate the hardship involved for anybody who is isolated from the community. They are as jealous of their good name as anybody else, either inside or outside this House. I think they are entitled to have their good name vindicated. The work which they do is undoubtedly very difficult. They work at times under conditions of strain which less tolerant and less patient men might not be able to endure.

Deputy Bruton referred to some of the 1947 Rules for Prisons. I agree with him that, on paper, some of them are not in accord with modern thinking. However, he can have my assurance that a group is at present working on the modernisation of these rules and I hope it will be carried out shortly.

Deputy Bruton also may rest assured that it is not my wish, nor is it the practice of governors of prisons, that the more antiquated of these rules should be applied as they are set out. In particular, in regard to Shanganagh, which is the place to which this Bill refers most particularly, no such rules apply at all. Indeed, the very opposite is the case in Shanganagh because every effort is made to encourage the staff and the offenders detained there to meet on as friendly terms as possible.

Another point in Deputy Dr. Browne's speech—I think it was taken up to some extent afterwards by Deputy Bruton—was that sentences should be indeterminate to some extent and that they should fit the criminal rather than the crime. That is all very well in theory. I appreciate Deputy Dr. Browne's approach, as a psychiatrist, to this problem. However, it is because my own background is that of a lawyer that I somewhat recoil from Deputy Dr. Browne's views. I do not think that the basic sense of justice in the community would accept for a minute that the length of a person's detention should be determined by his progress or lack of progress in rehabilitation rather than by the seriousness or otherwise of his offence. I do not think either that our Supreme Court—having regard to the provisions of our Constitution relating [190] to the liberty of the individual—would be prepared to look kindly on an indeterminate length of sentence such as that proposed——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I think the High Court has declared it unconstitutional.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  If that is so, it is what I would expect of our courts.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Could the remission not be more indeterminate?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  It is quite flexible at present—much more so than Deputies think. I got the impression from Deputy Dr. Browne that the flexibility should be at the other end. He seems to defeat his own argument about an individual becoming institutionalised when he suggests that, in certain cases, the rehabilitation of the persons required that sentences be extended.

A number of Deputies raised questions requiring some detail with regard to the educational facilities available in Shanganagh, in particular, and in our other institutions. While I have not had time to get all the detail which I might wish to give to Deputies, I think I can be of some assistance. Like many Deputies who have spoken, I share the concern which they, and many of my predecessors, have expressed about the importance of basic education in these institutions, particularly for younger offenders. It was principally to effect a radical improvement in this whole area that it was decided to appoint a psychologist. I am in a position to say that the Civil Service Commissioners have interviewed applicants for the post of psychologist and that only formalities such as medical examination have yet to be complied with. I have every reason to expect that I shall be appointing the successful candidate in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Let me go through the educational facilities that are available. I shall deal first with Mountjoy and say that, in that prison, there is a qualified teacher who, some years ago, took a special intensive course in rapid teaching for adults. He conducts classes in Mountjoy [191] every morning and evening in the corrective training unit. His work has been found to be of the very highest order. He has achieved considerable success with adult prisoners who, for one reason or another, have little or no education. In St. Patrick's, an officer who has some training—unfortunately he is not fully qualified—has been holding classes in the Three R's for educationally backward boys. He, also, has achieved a good degree of success. He has approximately 20 boys for two hours each morning and each afternoon.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Only 20?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Yes.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Surely there are more than 20 of them in need——

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  It is not regarded as desirable that the class should be any bigger. However, with the appointment of additional people, it will be possible to run a number of classes there simultaneously in the near future.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is it 20 per class with the possibility that there might be different boys——

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Twenty over a given short period. The 20 would vary from time to time. In Shanganagh, we are fortunate to have an officer who has a natural flair for teaching. Virtually all the boys there attend classes for half the day. Because of smaller numbers and the greater concentration on education in Shanganagh a great number of them have made remarkable progress in basic subjects. I think the House might be interested to know that, on arrival in Shanganagh, each boy is allocated to one of three groups. The A group consists of those who are very backward: they attend class each morning. The B group consists of those who are able to read and write reasonably well: they attend class on three afternoons per week. The C group are those whose primary education is regarded as satisfactory: they attend on the two remaining afternoons each week.

Unfortunately, the majority of those [192] who come to Shanganagh are found to come into the A category but one of the most rewarding features of the programme has been the number of boys who have learned to read and write while there. It has also been a feature that many of the boys, when they discover they are capable of learning, have devoted a good deal of their free time to improving themselves educationally.

A vocational teacher visits Shanganagh three times a week to instruct a group in woodwork and one of the officers who is also a carpenter, supervises the manufacture of furniture for the house and the carrying out of necessary running repairs. A great deal of reconstruction work has been carried out in the last 18 months or so in Shanganagh. Much of that has been done by the boys themselves.

I fully realise the importance of the educational work that must be done in all these institutions and I feel that the imminent appointment of the psychologist will bring about significant improvement. His primary task will be to establish an adequate educational set-up to rectify the shortcomings of young offenders educationally, particularly in reading, writing and arithmetic. He will concentrate his efforts on St. Patrick's and Shanganagh, initially.

I also intend to speak to my colleague, the Minister for Education, with a view to seeing whether special schools, suitably staffed and equipped, can now be provided in these detention centres and in the prisons. The House can take it for granted that I will leave nothing undone to facilitate that development. I have also requested the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee to allocate two part-time instructors to Shanganagh. They expect to be able to do this from the commencement of the new school year in September.

With regard to the staffing of Shanganagh, it should be pointed out to the House that at present the staff is 22 for 55 residents. That, in itself, is an excellent ratio. It is, of course, by far the highest in any institution in this country but it is also higher than it is in many similar institutions abroad.

[193] When some additional appointments have been made I would hope and expect that within 12 months the staff attached to Shanganagh will number over 30 so that the ratio will, in fact, be better than one to two. There is accommodation for 55 boys in Shanganagh. This is regarded as an optimum number.

Deputy Bruton and other Deputies raised the question of day release and temporary release to employment. Deputy Bruton may have been confused by the reply he got to a question he had put down to me yesterday. He asked the number who were on day-to-day release from St. Patrick's. In fact, in addition to that number, which was 44 in 1969, there were 17 on full temporary release as well. The total number paroled from St. Patrick's to employment in 1969 was 61.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is still a fairly insignificant proportion of the total number in St. Patrick's, is it not?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  It is. First of all employment is not available for everyone to whom we would wish to give it and, secondly, we must face up to the fact that there are some detainees in St. Patrick's whom we feel it is not in the public interest to release, even if they did have employment available to them. The Deputy should bear those factors in mind.

Deputy Bruton also referred to the desirability of involving voluntary workers in the work of rehabilitating offenders. I should like, for my part, to support what he has said and to say that I, as Minister, will facilitate, to the greatest degree that I can, voluntary workers with the necessary qualities interesting themselves in this very important social work. One of the problems we have had up to now is that we have had insufficient professional welfare officers to supervise this type of work and I have often felt that voluntary workers in this type of activity, no matter how generous they may be in giving of their time and talents, will work more effectively if they are subject to professional supervision. We have not, unfortunately, up to now been able to provide that to [194] the extent to which we would wish. With the appointment of a substantial number of new welfare officers to the probation service and to our prisons I feel we will, in fact, be able to provide this training and guidance and I would welcome accordingly an increase in the involvement of volunteers in this important social work. I should like to take this opportunity of conveying my thanks to the various organisations and individuals who have been participating in this work for quite a number of years past. I look forward now, with the extension of the prison welfare service and with the extension of the probation service, to a further increase in the number of voluntary workers who will certainly receive every co-operation and assistance from me.

In that connection—if I may digress for a minute—I should like to refer to the suggestion of Deputy Desmond that outside persons who are interested, including in particular members of this House, might be facilitated in visiting our establishments to familiarise themselves with conditions there. It certainly would be my intention to facilitate that development in every way. It might be better if Deputies were not to visit the prisons individually but rather in groups and certainly any reasonable group of four, five or six Deputies who have a genuine interest in this problem will be facilitated by me and I will certainly direct that they be given every co-operation by the prisons staff who I know will be only too delighted to extend it.

I might refer also to suggestions made by a number of Deputies with regard to the importance of not cutting off from the outside world persons who are committed to one or the other of these institutions. I thoroughly agree with this. I feel that family contacts, in particular, should be maintained to the maximum extent that is permissible in the light of security and of staff availability. Governors have a discretion which they use wisely and generously to allow additional letters and visits, particularly from members of families, to prisoners whom they feel they would benefit. I propose to suggest to the governors that they use that [195] discretion as freely as they can to allow additional letters and visits from members of a prisoner's family. I should point out, in case Deputies feel there are restrictions of this kind in Shanganagh, that this is not so. An unlimited number of letters can be sent and received. They are not opened or censored in any way. Visits by members of detainees' families are allowed very frequently and are not supervised. Visits lasting a whole afternoon are common. Deputies will appreciate that in the obvious interests of security it is not possible to allow unsupervised visits to institutions other than Shanganagh, but supervision is kept to the minimum that is consistent with security.

A number of Deputies referred to the drug problem which, unfortunately, besets our country today. I made little reference to it in my opening speech because I feel it is not really a problem for me as Minister for Justice. I am loath to regard people who are in difficulties of this kind as persons who should be dealt with primarily by the criminal law. They should be dealt with from a medical rather than from a legal viewpoint. The only people who seriously come within the ambit of my Department with regard to drugs are those who would seek to push drugs. In so far as it is open to me I will make every endeavour to enforce fully the law against such people. Deputy Dr. Browne suggested that, perhaps, special institutions other than prisons or hospitals should be made available for persons who have got themselves into difficulties with drugs. I would find it hard to disagree with the Deputy on that. It is a matter the Deputy should take up with my colleague, the Minister for Health. I do not think it is in the public interest, or in the interest of what I would like to call the patients, that they should have to seek treatment in any of the institutions under my control.

Deputies also inquired about the centre which is to be established at Finglas. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to give the House any details about that. It is a matter which comes under the Minister for Education. I [196] am sure Deputies who are interested will be able to get the necessary information from him.

Deputy Fitzpatrick in the course of his speech referred to the fact that two sections in this Bill provide for the making of regulations by me for the conduct of Shanganagh or similar places which might subsequently be established. I agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick and other Deputies that in general it is an undesirable tendency in our modern legislation that too much has to be done by way of regulation. In matters of this kind I am afraid one has no option.

If I were to spell out in this Bill the precise regulations, or even in a general way the sort of regulations, which should govern a place such as Shanganagh I would find myself in the position of having to come back to the House in, perhaps six months, and again in, perhaps, another 12 months time, to amend the regulations in the light of experience. Regulations of this sort should be flexible particularly with regard to Shanganagh and it should not be necessary to come back to the House to change them every time an obvious change becomes necessary and desirable.

I have covered most, if not all, of the points which have been raised in this debate. If there is any further information which any Deputies seek I would be very glad to provide it. I should like to conclude by thanking the House once again for the welcome they have given to this Bill and for the helpful and worthwhile contributions which have been made to the debate.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Minister referred to the necessity for a punitive element in our prisons system. Does the Minister envisage this element merely as a deterrent or is there an element of getting an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I do not think I said there was a necessity for a punitive element. What I intended to convey was that if there is a system of detention there is unavoidably a punitive element in it in so far as it involves deprivation of liberty. I deprecate any [197] suggestion of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. The primary principle which underlies our approach to these matters is rehabilitation. A secondary principle, which is adverted to in some sections of the Criminal Justice Bill, is a compensatory one. I do not think we, in this country, have ever put sufficient emphasis on that element. It is a principle which is foremost in the criminology of some countries. As I have said, a punitive element in our system cannot be avoided because of the very nature of detention. It is a very subsidiary element and in my approach to these problems it will certainly take a back seat.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Minister referred to the question of St. Patrick's and said that 20 people there are receiving remedial teaching. Figures brought out by the social science department of UCD would indicate that approximately 50 per cent are semi-literate or mately 50 per cent are semi-literate or illiterate. Fifty per cent of the present be approximately 100 persons. Would the Minister not agree that about four times as many as are now receiving remedial treatment in St. Patrick's are in need of it?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  As I pointed out to the House already, I propose to have a number of teachers appointed to St. Patrick's. I hope this problem will be overcome within the next 12 months.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd June, 1970.


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