Children's minister Frances Fitzgerald says juvenile offender will not be assigned to St Patrick's Institution from next month. Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Funding secured to end detention of children in adult prison

The €50m funding will mean the end of housing underage offenders in St Patrick’s Institution, which is an adult prison.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS confirmed €50 million of funding to end the longstanding practice of housing juvenile offenders in an adult prison.

Childrens minister Frances Fitzgerald said the funding, over three years, will ensure the end of the detention of 16 and 17-year-0ld offenders in St Patrick’s Institution, which currently houses offenders between the ages of 16 and 21.

Young offenders have been housed in St Patrick’s for over 25 years – prompting criticism from groups at home and abroad who said being housed with adults was inappropriate for the rehabilitation of children.

“This is a key investment in addressing the serious problems of Ireland’s most troubled teens. The path from St. Patrick’s Institution to Mountjoy Prison has been too well worn over the years,” Fitzgerald said.

“We must interrupt the predictable path of violence and crime and repeat offending progressing to further serious offending and committals in adult prisons.”

From 1 May, all newly-remanded 16-year-olds will be detained in the children’s prison at Oberstown, where the existing young offenders’ institution will be developed over the next two years in order to house all underage convicts.

The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomed the news, describing it as a “momentous achievement for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs”.

Chief executive Tanya Ward said the role of the children’s ombudsman Emily Logan, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and other organisations campaigning to end the violation of children’s human rights should also be recognised.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust also hailed the development as “historic”, with executive director Liam Merrick saying the Oberstown development was “central to the reform of the youth justice system in Ireland”.

“That the imprisonment of children will end, means the last of the larger outstanding issues will be addressed,” he said.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said the proposal to develop the centre at Oberstown was long overdue, and that its delay meant many young people involved in the criminal justice system did not have appropriate facilities to meet their needs.

“We are very glad to see today’s renewed commitment from the Government to improve the current provision of care for these young people,” Finlay added.

Previously: Government urged to address ‘sub-standard’ prison conditions

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