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Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan.
Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Officers who mistreated teens at St Patrick's will not move to Wheatfield

After visiting Wheatfield, the Children’s Ombdusman Emily Logan said she felt reassured about the move.
Jul 6th 2013, 4:05 PM 8,814 73

THE CHILDREN’S OMBUDSMAN said she feels “reassured” about the closure of St Patrick’s, the country’s biggest prison for young criminals, and the move to Wheatfield Prison.

St Patrick’s – which holds offenders aged 17 to 21 – has been closed down under plans announced by the Justice Minister Alan Shatter, in an unexpected sideways step in the government’s prison policy.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Emily Logan said that none of the prison officers that were involved in the mistreatment of young offenders at St Patrick’s Institution will make the move over to Wheatfield.

She said she was “unsure” what would happen to those prison officers but said they “may go somewhere else and be trained” as they are “unfit” to work with young people.

One prison to another

Logan spent three hours at the prison yesterday along with the Governor of Wheatfield Prison Patrick Kavanagh and the Governor of the Irish Prison Service Edward Whelan.

She said she was “pleasantly surprised” about Wheatfield but she still has concerns about the transition of children to a prison:

As the ombudsman for children, I’m still not happy with children going from one prison to another prison. This is just short-term solution until we open Oberstown next year.

Inside one of the cells at Wheatfield Prison, Tallaght, Dublin. Pic: Photocall Ireland

She hopes that the detention centre, Oberstown, will be ready by May 2014, where 17-year-old offenders will be sent because she said they “need care” and not prison. She also insisted that 17-year-olds will be held in a separate unit to the rest of the adult prison population at Wheatfield prison.

Play outdoors

Logan said that Wheatfield felt different from St Patrick’s: “It is more open, has more light and more space for the teenagers to go out and play outdoors”.

New procedures have also been put in place for young criminals to make a complaint with designated staff trained to help.

There will also be a “very good health care facility with a full-time GP and doctors from the central mental health area,” said Logan.

Logan said she felt more “assured” about the staff at Wheatfield and their willingness and openness to change. She does not believe that the same mistreatment of young people that happened at St Patrick’s will happen at Wheatfield.

Reports by the Inspector of Prisons found conditions have improved significantly at St Patrick’s in recent months but that a number of problems – including violence between rival gangs – persist, which led to the Inspector’s recommendation to close the medium-security prison down for good.

Related: “The culture has not changed” – St Patrick’s Institution finally gets closed down>
Read: Moving inmates from St Pat’s to adult prison “won’t make one iota of difference”>

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Amy Croffey

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