Priority Questions - Prisoner Releases

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 732 No. 4

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  36.  Deputy Dara Calleary  Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary   asked the Minister for Justice and Equality  Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter   the progress made to date on the issue of electronic tagging. [11947/11]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Part 10 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for the introduction of electronic monitoring, or tagging as it is also known, in this jurisdiction. My predecessor made the relevant order in 2010 commencing the provisions in the context of a restriction of movement condition applying to the granting of temporary release.

In tandem with the publication of the discussion document on the management of sex offenders in 2009, a project board was set up to examine electronic monitoring, EM. The board recommended that a pilot project be initiated to test EM technology in this jurisdiction and assess its value for money in the management of offenders. This recommendation was accepted and a decision was taken to explore, on a pilot basis, the use of global positioning system, GPS, satellite tracking monitoring technology on a small number of volunteer prisoners.

Following a public tender competition, the Irish Prison Service has tested the use of this technology on 31 prisoners who were given temporary release. The test phase began in August 2010 and ran until Christmas. The group of prisoners involved were carefully selected, having regard to a range of criteria, including the nature of the offence, public safety and overall conduct in prison. I am informed that prisoner compliance was high and only one prisoner was recalled due to a curfew violation. Now that the test has been completed, a comprehensive review of its viability in the management of offenders along with a cost benefit analysis is under way and this process will be completed by the end of September.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  The director general of the Prison Service confirmed the Minister’s comment that a cost benefit analysis is under way. Is he planning in the context of next year’s budget for his Department to submit an Estimate for the roll-out of the scheme, depending on the findings of the cost benefit analysis?

During Question Time on 7 April, the Minister stated that he was anxious to introduce legislation in this regard but there is no commitment to a legislative initiative in this area in the programme for Government. Does he intend to legislate for this in a new Bill or by amending existing legislation?

[666]Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  As the Deputy will be well aware, I cannot anticipate what funding will be available to my Department for 2012. However, as he accurately recalled, this is a useful mechanism to use within the criminal justice system. I am conscious of the pilot project and I am anxious not to prejudge it. In the context of the cost benefit analysis I hope it will be shown to be a beneficial way of dealing with certain types of prisoners within the criminal justice system. It may avoid, for example, the necessity to remand prisoners pending hearings for certain criminal prosecutions. This may provide a way of freeing spaces within our prison system and render it less costly for prisoners to be kept under supervision than under the present system, which requires that they be detained in prison.

It could also be of use in the future to the parole board but I want to see the result of the cost benefit analysis. My enthusiasm for this way of dealing with appropriate prisoners has to be tempered with my capacity to convince my colleagues, in particular, the Minister for Finance, that there are financial benefits and savings to the State in providing this service while improving the criminal justice system and providing for less overcrowding on a temporary basis within our prisons.

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