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Written Answers - Prisoner Education Service

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 405.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  if he will indicate out of the total number of prisoners serving sentences of three years or more, the number who apply for educational or training scheme places in each of the prisons; the number of such prisoners approved for such programmes; the number refused for whatever reason; the extent to which such rehabilitative programmes are likely to be made available to all prisoners serving such sentences in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6928/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can advise the Deputy that out of the 3,578 prisoners serving sentences during the week ended Friday 16 December 2011, 1,683 or 47% participated in education placements. It is not possible to separate out how many were serving 3 years or more from this number as this would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort that could not be justified where there are other significant demands on resources.

Prisoners are encouraged to participate in education activities and waiting lists, where they occur, are generally for the more popular programmes. Where demand exists for specific courses every effort is made to facilitate prisoners in the shortest period of time.

Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including notably the VECs and Public Library Services. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is the priority and broad [505]programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach. An average of 38% of the prison population attended classes in 2011.

A significant expansion and development of vocational training programmes has taken place in recent years and there are now over 100 workshops in place in our prisons capable of catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day. There was a significant increase in the number of prisoners who participated in accredited vocational training courses in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, when 874 prisoners attended such courses.

I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service is in the process of drafting a new Strategic Plan 2012-2014 which will be presented to me, by the Director General, in the first week of April. The development of prisoner education will form a central part of this Strategy.

The Irish Prison Service provides a range of other rehabilitative programmes that include healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services.

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