A Disaster, and An Obscenity,
St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders has today been labeled “a disaster, and an obscenity, revealing the moral bankruptcy of the policies of the Minister for Justice.”
These hard-hitting comments by Fr Peter McVerry are contained in a study entitled Rehabilitation in Irish Prisons- Are We for Real? published today by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The study was launched in Dublin today by Judge Dermot Kinlen, the Inspector of Prisons.
Commitment to Rehabilitation has regressed
“Rehabilitation in Irish prisons has regressed in the twenty-one years since the Whitaker Report on the penal system was published in 1985”, according to Fr McVerry, who contributed to the study.
Fr McVerry, who was a member of the of the Whitaker Committee, cited the closure of workshops and training facilities in 2003 and the cessation of literacy programmes at the youth prison as evidence of the decline in political commitment to rehabilitation throughout the prison system.
“Most young men in St. Patrick's spend 19 hours each day alone in their cells and the other five hours mindlessly walking up and down a dreary, depressing yard with nothing to do except to scheme (with enormous ingenuity, it must be said) how to get drugs into the place to kill the boredom” Fr McVerry added.
Call for greater scrutiny of replacement prison
Noting that the Government is committed to building a replacement youth prison, the Director of the Jesuit Centre, Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ called for “more scrutiny of the location, design and size of the replacement” for St Patrick’s Institution. “The problem has always been broader than the physical conditions in St Patrick's” he said
He added that “Rehabilitation must be a foundational concern in any prison-building programme. More important than any regeneration of prison buildings is a commitment to regeneration of the young people we send to prison.”
He pointed out that the Minister for Justice now has a great opportunity to exercise leadership. He called on the Minister to ring-fence the €25million annual savings arising from new working arrangements for Prison Officers and to use this money to develop alternatives to custody in targeted areas, targeted programmes in prisons and a strategy to ensure rehabilitation begun in prison continues after release. “In the absence of such investment, prison will remain little more than an interruption in an offender's criminal behaviour” he concluded.
In the absence of political commitment to rehabilitation he concluded by saying that Thornton Hall risks becoming ‘a social landfill-site’ for an increasingly uncaring Government.
Posted in Criminality, Prisons and Justice News