Cultural problems at detention centres

Cultural problems in child detention centres and the proper resourcing of inspection agencies are among a range of issues that need to be tackled, according to a new report.

The report — carried out as part of a Europe-wide initiative — also raises concerns about the enforcement of recommendations by monitoring bodies and the lack of independence of some of them.

The study, Children’s Rights Behind Bars, was carried out by Ursula Kilkelly, professor of law at University College Cork, and Louise Forde on behalf of the Irish Penal Reform Trust.

It is a report on monitoring complaints mechanisms in places where children are detained, including children processed through the criminal justice system and through the health system.

Fíona ní Chinnéide, deputy director of the penal reform trust, said

the report comes as the practice of detaining children in St Patrick’s Institution, along with young adults aged 18-21, was expected to come to an end in early 2015. She described this as the closing of “a dark chapter” in Ireland’s response to children in trouble with the law.

According to the report, there are three detention schools in the country for children within the juvenile justice system, dealing with boys up to the age of 17 and girls up to the age of 18.

The report states that the main obstacles and difficulties facing monitoring bodies include:

 - Problems with the culture of the institution being inspected;

 - Issues around adequate resourcing of monitoring bodies;

 - Enforcement of the recommendations of monitoring bodies;

 - Lack of independence of the Inspector of Prisons in relation to the publication of his reports;

 - Closed nature of facilities;

 - Outdated standards used for inspections.

In relation to obstacles and difficulties regarding complaint mechanisms, the report referred to the culture of particular institutions.

It said there was a “challenge” of empowering young people to make complaints, added to concerns about the manner in which information was given to young people about how to complain.

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