File photo Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Young offenders

40 per cent of prisoners in St Patrick's are on protection

Prisoners at the institution, which houses offenders aged 16 to 21, are placed on protection when they are under threat from other inmates or pose a risk to the prison population.

FORTY PER CENT of prisoners in St Patrick’s Institution are on protection for their own safety, according to new figures from the Minister for Justice.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust says that the figures are the highest in the Irish prison system.

Prisoners are placed on protection when they are considered to be under threat from other inmates or else pose a risk to the prison population. Prisoners on protection are separated from the general prison population or else from the specific prisoner who is believed to be a threat.

Prisoners can request to be placed on protection or the decision can be made by prison management.

A total of 91 inmates out of 222 inmates are on protection in the medium security institution which houses male offenders aged 16 to 21, according to the latest figures from the Department of Justice.

St Patrick’s has been sharply criticised by the UN Committee against Torture for imprisoning juveniles alongside adults, a practice which has been going on for 25 years and is due to end from next month. 41 of the 222 inmates are aged 16 and 17 and are housed in a different block to inmates who are aged 18 and over. 9 of the juvenile offenders are on protection.

The majority of prisoners who seek protection ask for it when they are initially committed to the prison, often because of gang rivalry or drug debts, Minister Shatter told the Dáil.

The figures were given to the Dáil by Justice Minister Alan Shatter in response to a question from Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald.

Prisoners detained on protection get at least one hour of exercise each day and leave their cells for other activities during the day. They can also attend recreational activities with other prisoners on protection if they choose to.

The government confirmed earlier this month that it has set aside €50 million to end the practise where 16 and 17-year-old offenders are housed alongside adults in St Patrick’s.  From next Tuesday (1 May) all newly-detained 16-year-old offenders will be remanded at a specialist institution for young offenders at Oberstown in north Dublin.

Read: Prison officers: ‘Prison service seems to ignore gang problem’ >

Read: Ombudsman welcomes decision to end detention of children in St Patrick’s >

Read: Three prisoners serving sentences for homicide offences are ‘unlawfully at large’ >

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