Posted on April 3, 2012 12:54 PM | Permanent Link
Dublin North East Labour TD and member of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, Sean Kenny has welcomed as "historic", the announcement by Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, that capital funding of approx. €50m is to be made available for the building of the first phase of the National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown in Lusk, and that that the practice of imprisonment of children in Ireland will cease within two years. IPRT further welcomed the announcement that from 1st May 2012, boys aged 16 will no longer be detained in St Patrick's Institution.
"Over the past 25 years, successive governments have made commitments to ending the imprisonment of children in Ireland, but this is the first time there has been a concrete plan and timeline. Given the current economic pressures on the country, this development speaks volums about the good intentions that the Government has for the country. It is a powerful statement of the Government's commitment to the rights of children who come into conflict with the law. The message from the Ryan Report was not just about the past but what needs to change for children in the care of the State today, and the detention of children in prison continues to be one of the most glaring failures in how this State cares for children."
"This development is central to the reform of the youth justice system in Ireland, and, while there is still work to be done in reducing the numbers going into detention - particularly in addressing the high numbers on remand who do not go on to receive a detention order - that the imprisonment of children will end means the last of the larger outstanding issues will be addressed."
"We also welcome the acknowledgment that children in the criminal justice system have complex needs and backgrounds which require specialist therapeutic treatment and for which a punitive prison environment is extremely damaging. The Minister's statement recognizes the capacity of young people to change, a capacity which is supported by scientific research into adolescent development."
"We particularly welcome the interim arrangements commencing on 1st May 2012 which will see all newly remanded or sentenced boys aged 16 detained in children detention facilities and not an adult prison. However, we should not lose sight of the issues which remain in St Patrick's Institution. There are still around forty 16 and 17 year olds in St. Patrick's today and interim steps will be needed to transfer as many of these as possible out of the prison system over the next two years. There is also an urgent need for the Prison Service to take more steps to address other serious concerns in St. Patrick's, not least the high numbers of prisoners on protection, which at 33.6% are the highest across the prison system."