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Child offenders will no longer be detained in adult prisons

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone will sign a ministerial order as early as this week ending the practice.

Updated 8pm

CABINET HAS AGREED to end the sentencing of children to adult prisons.

Today, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she will be signing a ministerial order shortly to end the practice.

In 2012, the government announced it was to end the practice of housing offenders under the age of 18 in adult prisons.

The current Tánaiste and then Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said at the time that €50 million worth of funding would be made available to bring an end to the long-standing practice of housing 16 to 17-year-old offenders in institutions like St Patrick’s Institution in north Dublin.

The development of the National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown was also announced.

Whistleblower Story Children's Minister Katherine Zappone Source:

The practice, which was in existence for some 25 years, was heavily criticised with many children’s interest groups stating it was inappropriate to house children with adult offenders and hampered efforts to rehabilitate them.

However, speaking in the Dáil last month, Zappone confirmed seven young men, aged around 17 years old, were still being detained in Wheatfield Place prison.

The ministerial order to end the detention of young offenders in adult prisons is currently being drafted by legal officials in the department, but it is understood the government is to move on this issue very quickly. It is believed the order could be signed and in effect as early as the end of this week.

Adult prisons

Once the order is signed, it will remove the possibility of anyone under the age of 18 being held in an adult prison.

It is still unknown if the detail of the order will specify that any children who are already held in adult prisons will be transferred to another facility upon the signing of the order.

While there will be no new committals to Wheatfield Prison, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Executive Director of Irish Penal Reform Trust said the seven boys who are being held in the prison today will either complete their sentence in that prison or transfer to another part of the prison system when they turn 18.

“Signing the order won’t bring an immediate end to children being held in prison, but it will mean no new children will be detained there. This is very welcome,”Ní Chinnéide told

She also highlighted that despite commitments made by government, one teenage boy is currently detained in St Patrick’s Institution, a practice which was meant to have ended years ago.

“The late Inspector of Prisons Judge Reilly described the detention of one or two boys in St Patrick’s Institution as ‘tantamount to holding them in isolation and it is certainly inhumane’. So it is of serious concern to that this practice can continue today, despite commitments to end it and legislation that allows children to be detained on remand in Oberstown. No child should be in prison, but they definitely should not be held in St Patrick’s Institution,” said Ní Chinnéide.

“Prison is a completely inappropriate response to offending by children, and increases the likelihood of further offending. The detention school model is focused on a model of care, education, health and offending programmes towards better outcomes for the young people and a reduction in offending on release – which is better for everyone,” she concluded.

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