Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Denis Naughten: ] Can the Minister assure the public that the CCTV will work, unlike the situation that arose at the time of the break out from the Grove area of the prison, which is inside the 25 ft. high wall of Castlerea Prison? This facility is outside that wall.
Second, I acknowledge that we are in a difficult economic climate at present. In light of that, perhaps the Minister will explain something. Shelton Abbey has capacity for 110 prisoners, with a daily average occupancy in 2011 of 102. Loughan House has capacity for 160 prisoners, with a daily average occupancy rate in 2011 of 122. There is capacity within those two facilities for at least 46 additional prisoners. Why is there a need for another facility to be opened in Castlerea? Even though Castlerea prison might be overcrowded, it does not follow that there are enough prisoners in that facility suitable for transfer to an open facility outside the walls.
There has been a break out from inside the 25 ft. high wall. The prisoners in the Grove were considered to be relatively low risk or they would not have been put there in the first place. If they could get out over the wall, what assurance does the community have regarding the prisoners who will be outside that wall?
Deputy John Perry: I again thank the Deputy for his contribution and I am happy to address some of the issues raised. With regard to the clarification from the Minister, Deputy Shatter, I cannot do that, but the tone of the initial reply gives a fair idea of the Minister's motivation.
The Minister appreciates, as I do, that there might be security related issues of concern to the local population. His officials are very concerned about that. I have already referred to the stringent risk criteria which will attach to any prisoners under consideration for accommodation at the facility. It is very important that a massive evaluation would be carried out of any prisoner who is going on the rehabilitation process. The Deputy can be assured that the authorities will not put a high risk prisoner into that house. They have been very effective in Loughan House. I have been there and it is an open prison that is cleanly managed. Obviously, there are eight people who have left and have not returned, but by and large-----
Deputy John Perry: -----it is very well managed. While the Minister has made no final decision on the type of prisoner to be located there, all the prisoners will be subject to the normal temporary release rules and conditions. If there are any infringements of those conditions, the prisoner involved will be dealt with by the governor in the normal way.
I know Castlerea and everybody is aware of the prison there. It is a welcome facility for business in Castlerea. It brings people to the region and brings a benefit to the gross domestic product of Castlerea. There would be a major outcry if it were to be closed. Harristown House is an enhancement of that facility. From the business perspective in Castlerea, while there might be concern, there is an assurance by the State that no high risk prisoner will be put in the house. Temporary releases, which are a long established practice, assist in gradually preparing suitable offenders for release. Administering short sentences is an incentive to prisoners and an important vehicle for their reintegration into society. I know Deputy Naughten would support the reintegration of prisoners. This is about reintegration into the community before the prisoners' release, which is not a bad thing to do.
Finally, the generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned reintegration of offenders prior to their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence. Each application for temporary release, for whatever reason, is examined on its merits. The safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. The works on Harristown House commenced in November 2012 and should be completed in March 2013. Part of the works is the installation of CCTV equipment, which will be working, to monitor the house and the surrounding area, including all entrances. Furthermore, the prisoners will be supervised daily by an industrial supervisor and they will also be visited and monitored by other staff who will attend at the house at different times throughout the day.
When the house is ready for occupation it is envisaged that five or six prisoners will initially be involved. When it is operating to full capacity up to 15 prisoners might be located there at any one time. All of these prisoners will be subject to normal temporary release rules and conditions and if there are any infringements of those conditions, the prisoner involved will be dealt with. The maximum number of 15 in the house is not a huge number of prisoners. The Deputy should allay the concerns of the community. People do not have anything to be concerned about in any sense.
Deputy Shane Ross: The Minister will be aware of the controversy that has surrounded the insertion of fluoride into our water supply, and it has been heating up recently. I draw his attention to an article in Hot Press, a magazine I am sure he is familiar with, which discusses the fluoridation of our water.
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