Written Answers. - Prison Chaplains Report.

Thursday, 25 June 1998

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 493 No. 2

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  25.  Mr. D'Arcy  Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15292/98]

  28.  Mr. U. Burke  Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15295/98]

  32.  Ms Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15288/98]

  38.  Mr. D. Carey  Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15285/98]

  69.  Mr. Connaughton  Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15289/98]

  85.  Mr. Crawford  Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15290/98]

  108.  Mr. Creed  Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   his views on the annual report of prison chaplains published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15291/98]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 28, 32, 38, 69, 85 and 108 together.

The 1997-1998 Prison Chaplains' Annual Report was received by me on Tuesday, 19 May 1998. In preparing their report, the prison chaplains understandably place overriding emphasis on the spiritual and personal welfare of prisoners. Their unique positions within the prison system gives them a valuable oversight of conditions in our penal institutions. Accordingly, due regard must be given to their views.

There are 79 recommendations in this report and from an initial examination it would appear that few of the issues raised are new; some relate to important policy issues which will require detailed consideration. The more general issues [358] include rehabilitation, overcrowding, poor conditions, drug abuse, medical, psychiatric and psychological services etc.

The House will be aware that the major issues of overcrowding and inadequate prison conditions are being addressed not only by way of extensive building and refurbishment programmes but also in terms of the ongoing development of alternatives to custody in line with the commitment in the programme for Government.

I have commented on previous occasions on many of the other issues raised including the drug problem in the prisons and on efforts to deal with it by reducing both the demand and the supply. I accept that much work remains to be done in this area.

With regard to the issue of rehabilitation and specifically where sex offenders are concerned I am keen to expand the number of treatment places available. In this regard my Department is actively examining the possibility of increasing the number of group treatment places available by locating a further group treatment programme for ten sex offenders at the Curragh. However, in view of the specialised skills and the resources necessary to set up and run such a programme it will take some time to put a new programme in place.

It is, of course, important to provide a standard of health care for offenders which is equivalent to that available in the general community. In this context, the new doctor's contract has been accepted by all but three prison medical officers. The implementation of this new contract will serve to improve primary medical care for prisoners. In addition a proposed service agreement with the Eastern Health Board, which will lead to the assignment of a number of dedicated psychiatrists, should lead to an improvement in the level of treatment available within the prison service to those inmates who suffer from psychiatric disorders or mental illness.

There are many recommendations in the report to which I have not specifically referred. As I have said already these will be taken into account in future policy development generally and, in particular, in relation to humane custody.


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