As my essay is based on the scrutiny that St. Patricks Institution has been under for several years, that is what my essay will be based on. Firstly I will provide a brief introduction about St. Patrick's Institution and mention some of the problems within the Institution. The reports that I will discuss are a report by the European Committee for the prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), a report by the Ombudsman for Children, which is titled 'Young People in St. Patrick's Institution' and the final report that I have looked at in relation to my essay is a report by the inspector of prisons, which is titled 'Report on an Inspection of St. Patrick's Institution by the Inspector of prisons Judge Michael Reilly'.
The report by the CPT was carried out from 25th January to 5th February 2010. The report by the Ombudsman for children was carried out in 2011 and the report by the Inspector of Prisons was carried out in 2012.
According to the Inspector of Prisons St. Patrick's Institution opened its doors in 1902. The prison provides for males aged sixteen to twenty-one. Within the prison the young people and the adults are supposed to be segregated from each other, with the B Block of the prison catering for the young offenders, the C Block catering for the older prisoners and the region in the prison known as 'The Unit' caters for both the young and old.
It is not only in recent years that St. Patrick's has being under scrutiny. According to the report by the inspector of prisons in 1985 a man named T.K. Whittaker suggested that the prison should be closed down. In the report it states that Dr. T.K Whittaker declared that St. Patrick's Institution was unable to help any individual within the prison to change and be ready to become an active member of society when they leave the prison. He claimed that the prison would not have the ability to assist or help anybody for the better even if it was redecorated and modernized.
The reports that I mentioned above brought to light many of the problems within the prison. Some of these problems are more serious than others, but all of them need to be addressed sooner rather than later, as it is not a suitable atmosphere or setting for people to be living their day to day lives in. I will now discuss some of the problems mentioned in the three reports that I have mentioned.
Their own building
The first problem that is mentioned in the report by the CPT is that young people under the age of eighteen should be located in a detention school specifically for children. In 2010 when this report took place young people between the ages of sixteen and seventeen were being help in St. Patrick's Institution and they had no date set as to when the youths may be relocated to a children's detention center. It has being said however, that a new children's detention center will be opened at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin in 2013/2014. To my knowledge I do not think a specific opening date has being set. The report also stated that the conditions within St. Patrick's are not suitable for minors. It is unfair to the young people staying in St. Patrick's Institution to be living under unsuitable conditions. When the young people are moved to the new detention center in Lusk, the staff will more than likely to be trained to deal specifically with young people and will be better able to meet the needs of the young people than St. Patrick's Institution.
One positive aspect of the report by the CPT is that within the Institution, levels of violence had fallen, as the prison had put procedures in place in relation to violence happening within the prison. However, it was stated by the report by the Ombudsman for children that some of the young offenders younger than eighteen had their cells on the same floor as the inmates who were on protection. These inmates that were on protection had problems with their mental health and had a tendency to try and harm themselves. I believe that this may have put the young people under some amount of danger and possibly put their lives at risk. Even though the Institution may have had difficulty keeping certain inmates away from each other, I do not think it was in the best interests of the young people to place them on the floor with older prisoners experiencing difficulties within their lives. The Ombudsman for children also found that the young offenders did not strictly have the B Division to themselves which they were meant to. Individuals over the age of eighteen were also in the B division of the Institution. As the youths were been mixed with prisoners over the age of eighteen, this was deemed unsafe. The youths within this section of the prison could also get their hands on drugs if they wanted to. This is another reason why this section of the prison may be deemed unsafe for the youths.
The report by the Inspector of Prisons also mentioned that drugs were a huge problem within St. Patrick's Institution. Procedure have being put in place to try and stop drugs circulating around the prison, but unfortunately it is still an issue.
Even though there is a school in the Institution for the young people to gain an education while inside, it has its downsides according to the report by the Ombudsman. According to the young people they do like school, but they hoped that they would have had access to the workshops within the prison, which they did not. This was a result of trying to split up the older prisoners from the young offenders. I think this is a huge downfall for the young people. Possibly the prison could introduce a roster for the workshops, which would have certain hours for the older prisoners and certain hours for the young offenders, which means that they would not be coming in contact with each other. The workshops would be of huge benefit to the young people when they leave the prison.
The report by the CPT suggested that not all staff working in the Institution were trained to deal with the adolescents. The staff that is employed to deal specifically with the young people should be chosen carefully, as it takes a certain type of person to work with young people. Working with young people can be a very challenging job, as it is your responsibility to make sure the young person is being looked after properly within the prison system. The report recommended that when it comes to employing people to deal and work alongside the young people, that they should be selected very carefully and that the process of selection should be thorough. It also suggested that all individuals working with the youths should be suitably trained and attend any additional courses in relation to young people and also attend refresher courses, so that information will be fresh in their minds and they will be better able to deal with young people and the challenges they face. In the report from the Ombudsman for children, Brian Purcell, the director for the Irish Prison service stated that the employees working alongside the young offender had being received training in relation to working with young people. He also mentioned that the prison system operates alongside the Youth Justice system in relation to training for staff members. They also have interaction with additional organizations that help to train staff working with the young people.
The report by the ombudsman man was carried out in 2011, which was a year after the report of the CPT. I wonder had the training of the staff members working alongside the young people being carried out within that year.
Another positive aspect is that the cells within the institute met the proper standards in relation to lighting, sanitary facilities and sufficient aeration. This was stated in the report by the CPT. The report stated that there were renovations taking place within the Institution. According to some of the young people within the Ombudsman's report they were dissatisfied with their cells. They complained about the bad condition of the mattresses in the cells and the storage space. They also mentioned that in the winter months the cells can get quite chilly. According to the report by the inspector of prisons the cells were not in a suitable condition and not up to the proper standards that they should be.
Twenty three hour a day lock up & Workshops
The report by the CPT found that a high percentage of the prisoners were spending a great deal of time confined to their cells. Thirty-five of the prisoners were not part of any of the workshops or the educational programs taking part within the prison. The prison stated that the reason for this was because they wanted to keep certain groups within the prison apart from each other. However, the committee stated that more needed to be done to make sure that all the prisoners were given the opportunity to take part in the workshops and the educational courses. This will allow the prisoners to gain skills and talents which will help them in the outside world when they are released from prison. The committee suggested introducing incentives to the prisoners so that they would take part in the courses and workshops.
Another problem is that some inmates in the prison are locked up for up to twenty-three hours a day. Locking somebody up for that long is inhuman treatment and nobody deserves or should be treated like that. Even though the prison may put forward good reasons, such as avoiding conflict between certain groups of prisoners if they were put together for having the prisoners locked up for this long. The prisoners in the C3 division of the prison only really get access to the activities outdoors, which is unfair as they do not get access to workshops or the educational programs taking place within the prison. The prisoners that are locked up most of the day are suffering from illnesses, such as mental health issues. I do not think that locking up these prisoners is the answer. At some point these people are going to leave the prison and be back in the outside world. I think the prison should do as much as possible to try and rehabilitate these people back into society. It is unfair that they are marginalized within the prison system due to their personal problems. I totally agree with the committee's views in regards to this problem. They state that prisoners that are locked up for a large proportion of the day should be provided with adequate health care within the prison system and that they should be able to take part in the activities that are offered to all the other prisoners in the prison.
The report by the inspector of prisons found that one of the downfalls of the workshops within the prison is that they never receive resources and supplies they need in the workshops when they are supposed to receive them.
Another problem that was identified during the inspection by the CPT was that the institution had on some levels an insufficient health care service. The doctor should be on the premises of the institution for more than one and a half hours every day as there is a lot of prisoners within the prison, and sometimes the amount of time the doctor may be there for each day may be insufficient. St. Patrick's also needs psychiatrists and psychologists that are specifically trained to deal with young people and the problems that they may present. Even though these inmates within these prisons may have done wrong, which is the reason that they are there, they still deserve to have the right to be able to access adequate health care whenever they may need it. It is a human right to receive medical care, and this right should not be taken away from anyone.
The report by the Inspector of prisons had no huge criticisms against the health care provided within the prison. It did however mention that the psychology facility within the Institution cannot deal with the capacity of prisoners that it has to deal with. This is an issue that needs to be looked at, as this service is vital to some of the prisoners within the Institution.
Rules and Regulations
When the report by the Ombudsman was carried out it was made aware to her that not many of the young people were aware of the procedures or the rulings set out by the prison. The prison had failed to provide information in relation to this issue. I think that young people coming into the prison should be given a set of the guidelines which they must abide by whilst in the prison. If the young people did know the guidelines to stick to it make life easier for them and the workers within the prison.
Some of the young people said that they had gotten a copy of the guidelines which they must abide by whilst they are in the institution. This made me wonder whether or not there was a policy in the prison to ensure that each member had a copy of the guidelines of the prison, or whether only a few people had received them. I believe that this is an issue that needs to be cleared up. I believe all young people should receive all the information they need in relation to behavior in the prison or attending the working shops and courses. The report also found that there was a problem regarding literacy levels among the youths, so they found it difficult with receiving written handouts in relation to the prison. The youths specified that an individual meeting with a staff member after entering the prison would be beneficial as it would cover all they need to know about life inside and the opportunities available to them. I feel that the prison needs to take all these issues and the opinions of the youths into account to try and better a young person's life within the prison. This system should be reviewed, revised, and bettered to the best of their ability. I believe everybody would benefit from this.
The report by the Inspector of prisons states that the information leaflets that were distributed had incorrect information in them and were only available in English, which in a way is being racist against other nationalities that may enter the prison as it is not available in their language.
The Ombudsman for children also found that none of the youths seemed to know much or be aware that a plan should be set up for them throughout their time in the institution in relation to education or other opportunities within the prison. This is quite shocking. At some point in time these youths will leave the prison for the outside world. I believe that the youths should be given the best opportunities in the institution which will help them to adapt to the outside world when they get out.
The points I made above about the youths having individual meetings with a staff member and establishing a plan for the youths whilst in prison is the reason why the staff working in the institution needs to be properly trained. Thus, this will result in the best outcomes for the young offenders.
Another problem also mentioned in the Ombudsman's report was that the young people wanted to wear their own clothing. They wanted to wear their own clothing because they disliked having to wear the clothing that the prison provided for them. The clothing they had to wear had been worn by other prisoners and was in a bad state.
In the report produced by the Inspector of prisons it mentioned in one section of it that overcrowding within the prison was a problem. However, in another section of the report it stated that overcrowding in the prison was not a problem. This left me wondering as to whether overcrowding within the prison was a problem or not. It seems a bit strange that the report has contradicted itself. It also leaves the reader of the report unsure of whether exactly overcrowding in the prison is an issue. In the other two reports that I have mentioned overcrowding was not mentioned. It seems peculiar for one report to state overcrowding is a problem if it is not mentioned in other reports.
It is clear to see from the points I have made throughout my essay that within St. Patrick's Institution that there are many issues that need to be addressed. Personally I do not think that St. Patrick's Institution is a place for young people. I hope within the next few months the new detention center in Oberstown will open, as it will be of huge benefit to the youths. The staff working within this center will be specifically trained to deal with youths, thus having the best interests of the young people at heart and wanting the best outcomes for them when they leave the prison.
Even though the youths will be leaving the prison when the new detention center is opened in Oberstown, I believe that the issues in St. Patrick's Institution still need to be addressed. The older population within the prison still has to live their daily lives within this prison, which is why the issues need to be dealt with. It would be unfair for anybody to be living in such conditions, whether they may be criminals or not. They should have the chance to have the amenities and services within the prison system to help them to change and lead better lives when they do leave the prison.
I am aware that prisons are possibly trying to be harsh to prisoners that they will not reoffend when they leave prison, thus making them live in harsh conditions. These harsh conditions may make a person rethink their actions and change for the best so that they will not reoffend in the future. If a prison system does not want people reoffending when they leave the prison system they should provide them with skills and education that may enable them to get jobs when they leave the prison, thus resulting in them not reoffending. This is why St. Patrick's needs to change and better itself, thus providing it's prisoners with the best opportunities that it can.
I believe that all the problems I have talked about in my essay need to be addressed and addressed promptly. I know the country may be short of money as we are experiencing a serious fiscal crisis, but the Government needs to act quickly and provide the funding to the prison to better its amenities and resources that will allow the prisoners to better themselves when they are in prison and lead a better life when they leave. Yes these people have obviously committed crimes, which is why they are in jail, but do they not deserve the chance to redeem themselves and make a better life for themselves and their families.
Dr. Paul Michael Garrett (2012), Transforming Children's Services: Locking up Children and Young People', SP698: Transforming Children's Services, National University of Ireland, Galway, Unpublished
Office of the Inspector of Prisons (2012) Report on an Inspection of St. Patrick's Institution by the Inspector of prisons Judge Michael Reilly. Tipperary: Office of the Inspector of Prisons
Ombudsman for Children (2011) Young People in St. Patrick's Institution. A Report by the Ombudsman for Children's Office. Dublin: The Ombudsman for Children
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2010) Report to the Government of Ireland carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) Strasbourg: European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment