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Other Questions - Prisoner Releases

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 70.  Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  the results of the Irish Prison Service comprehensive review of the pilot project which involved electronically tagging and monitoring 31 prisoners on release; and the date on which this review will be published. [6535/12]

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.

A project board was set up at the time to examine the area of 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 tested the use of this technology on a small number of prisoners, 31 in all, who were given temporary release. The test phase began in August 2010 and ran until Christmas 2010. 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.

Following the pilot project, the Irish Prison Service, IPS, has undertaken a review of its viability in the management of offenders along with a cost benefit analysis. That review will be considered in the context of the IPS draft strategic plan for 2012 to 2014 which I expect will be submitted to me at the beginning of April. Finally, in line with the recommendations in the report of the Thornton Hall project review group, the Deputy will know that I am establishing a group to carry out an all-encompassing strategic review of penal policy. That group will also look at this issue. We might be in a position to make some further decisions on this matter when the strategic plan has been finalised.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The review will be available in April — possibly — and the penal policy group will be examining this. Does the Minister not agree that electronic tagging has its limitations? It might show where a person is but it does not show what they are up to or with whom they are associating. In the wider policy on rehabilitating prisoners before releasing them back into the community, there are pre-release programmes and peer support programmes. Will a holistic approach be taken to this issue or is it being looked at in isolation as something the Department wishes to implement?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter We are not looking at it in isolation. We have some pre-release programmes and there are a number of organisations, funded through the Department, that also look after prisoners following their release. The Probation Service engages with a considerable number of prisoners before they are released. Tagging is just one of a number of options available. It has proved useful in other jurisdictions but I am anxious to see what is reported back as a result of the initial pilot scheme, on which the work has been done, and in the strategic review. I expect it might have a role in the future but, again, there are resource issues with it. No final decision has been made as to whether we will proceed further with tagging in 2012 or 2013 or whether priority will be given to other forms of intervention.

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