Ombudsman wants St Patrick's closed

Wednesday 09 February 2011 22.27
Emily Logan - Interviewed younger detainees
Emily Logan - Interviewed younger detainees

The Children's Ombudsman has urged the next government to act quickly to end the practice of detaining children in prison and to close St Patrick's Institution in Dublin.

Emily Logan also reiterated her strong recommendation that 16 and 17-year-old detainees should be able to make complaints to her office.

Located beside Mountjoy Prison, St Patrick's Institution houses up to 65 sixteen and 17-year-olds and twice that number of 18 to 21-year-olds.

Although the Children's Ombudsman is excluded from receiving complaints, she has interviewed the younger detainees.

She found that they had a positive view of the Deputy Governor, but some felt his decisions were not implemented promptly or at all.

Most were positive about their teachers and chaplains but generally they viewed prison officers negatively, complaining that some of them behaved in a threatening manner.

The Head of the Irish Prison Service, Brian Purcell, responded that complaints against prison officers were fully investigated.

The Ombudsman wants to adjudicate on how separation cells are used. Frequently they are to protect detainees from peer-bullying. But separated prisoners can be locked up for up to 23 hours a day, while losing their rights to visits, letters and phone calls.

Officially, ‘St Pat's’ - as it's generally known - is to remain as a place of detention for 16 and 17-year-olds until 2014, when the first phase of a new national child detention facility is due to open in north Co Dublin.

The Ombudsman praised the commitment made last year by the then Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to ring-fence funding for the new facility in Oberstown.