Teen killers of Ana Kriegel will spend next four years at Oberstown. Here's what they can expect

Teen killers of Ana Kriegel will spend next four years at Oberstown. Here's what they can expect
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The place where Boy A and Boy B will spend the next four years of their lives for murdering Ana Kriegel is not a prison. But Oberstown is most definitely a place of detention.

The two 14-year-old boys will be housed in a place where the focus will be on their care and wellbeing — but there are prison-style gates and three sets of perimeter fencing.

Oberstown has modern buildings, stylish and colourful inside and out, providing a range of functions, giving the place that sense of purpose and spaciousness.

But movement is controlled. The children cannot wander around, and they are locked into their rooms at night.

For young people who misbehave, treats and rewards can be removed. They can be separated from other children.

Oberstown Youth Detention Centre
Oberstown Youth Detention Centre

If needs be, they can be physically restrained. If necessary, gardaí can be, and have been, called to intervene with force.

The Irish Examiner has visited this facility — located in an isolated part of north county Dublin — twice in recent years, once in September 2016 and again in March of this year.

Boy A and Boy B spent time in Oberstown initially when they were remanded in custody awaiting trial, but were later released on bail. They are now back as they await sentence. So they are somewhat familiar with the building. But, unlike many of those in the facility, a number of whom have a long history of offending, they have not served sentences there before.

Teen killers of Ana Kriegel will spend next four years at Oberstown. Here's what they can expect

It will only be after their sentencing next month that their lives will begin to take some sort of shape, both for them and their families.

They will be there until they turn 18, at which stage they will be transferred into the adult prison system, possibly Wheatfield Prison.

Previous experience indicates that the boys will mix with the other children serving sentences, though it is likely they might be placed in separate residential homes. These separate units typically house up to eight children each.

The small number of girls sent to Oberstown are housed in a separate unit.

Each unit is headed by a unit manager. Five to six residential social workers look after the children during the day with night supervisors taking over then.

Children are assigned two key workers, who work with them to plan and manage their time.

The boys, like all the children, will have their own en-suite bedrooms.

Teen killers of Ana Kriegel will spend next four years at Oberstown. Here's what they can expect

They have a TV, which is turned off remotely at 2am and activated again at 9am. Overnight, children are locked in.

Each unit has a lounge area where children and staff can ‘hang out’. There are also multi-purpose rooms, where the young people can play video games, watch movies, and take phone calls.

Young people are told they can phone home and are encouraged to maintain contact with their families.

Meals are delivered by catering staff to the unit at 9.30am, and the children sit together to eat. At the weekend, the staff will cook them a fry.

Families can visit during the week and, for those on detention, the visits are not screened. Families can bring money and clothes, which are first given to staff.

Teen killers of Ana Kriegel will spend next four years at Oberstown. Here's what they can expect

There is a well-resourced school in the campus, and the children attend there between 10am and 3pm, breaking for lunch. It is here Boy A and Boy B are likely to sit their school exams.

After 4pm, there are activities, including the gym, football, textiles, art, cooking, music, and snooker, which typically run until around 7.30pm.

At the weekends, most activities don’t operate. During our visit last February, one young person told us you could “go off your head in here” at the weekends.

The youth said he missed “being free” and that “you can’t go out, you can’t walk around”.

From the outset, the boys will get a placement plan known as CEHOP that sets out their care, education, health, offending behaviour, and preparation for leaving.

Health care is multi-disciplinary, with clinical and therapeutic services, including psychologists, provided by Tusla and psychiatric services provided by the National Forensic Mental Health Service.

Teen killers of Ana Kriegel will spend next four years at Oberstown. Here's what they can expect

In our last visit, staff stressed that addressing offending behaviour was central to their programmes.

This includes victim empathy, decision-making skills, and identifying factors that led to their crimes.

Every six weeks a placement planning meeting is held for each child.

Building relationships with the young person is part of the care model.

Staff said that efforts are made with the young people to discuss their offence in an “safe environment, in a non-judgemental environment”.

The approach is that the courts have already passed verdict and given sentence.

Staff said a key part of the process was getting the young people to accept responsibility — but said that can be a “difficult” journey.

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