THE CHILDREN’S OMBUDSMAN Emily Logan has welcomed the decision to end the practice of housing child offenders in an adult prison after the government confirmed the move yesterday.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday said that €50 million worth of funding would be made available over the next three years to bring an end to the long-standing practice of housing 16 to 17-year-old offenders in St Patrick’s Institution in north Dublin.
The practice, which has lasted for some 25 years, has been heavily criticised with many children’s interest groups saying it was inappropriate to house children with adult offenders and hampered efforts to rehabilitate them.
Logan echoed that criticism on RTÉ radio this morning, saying: “The regime, not surprisingly, is a regime of custody so a lot of the practices that exist relate to prison regimes.
“For instance as a 16 or 17-year-old you get two family visits of 30-minutes a week. So a lot of practices that exist, while they might be suitable for a prison regime, are wholly unsuitable for children.”
From the beginning of next month, all newly-remanded 16-year-olds will be held at a specialist young offenders’ institution at Oberstown in north Dublin where the existing ‘boys detention school’ will be developed with the new funding.
Logan welcomed this, telling Morning Ireland: “The environment in which they are going to live on a day-to-day basis will change entirely.”
She said that the housing of children at the institution that is known to many as St Pat’s had raised numerous issues surrounding the mental and physical health of these children as well as concerns about their protection.
Logan also said that among those juveniles being held there had been a lack of willingness to make concerns known to authorities.
The Ombudsman added that the overall issue of juvenile crime could only be tackled through early intervention schemes. ”The message here is about early intervention and protection… this is the result of inaction of the state for many, many years,” she added.