The Irish Penal Reform Trust has welcomed the release of the last 16-year-old child from jail, ending a much-condemned aspect of Ireland’s prison system.
The trust has now called for action to be taken in relation to 17-year-old boys, who remain locked up in St Patrick’s Institution.
The IPRT was commenting on yesterday’s report in the Irish Examiner, which detailed the release of the last remaining 16-year-old from the Dublin prison.
“Since the commitment to end the imprisonment of children was announced in April, both the Prison Service and the IYJS [Irish Youth Justice Service] deserve great credit for the speed with which they have achieved removing 16-year-olds from St Patrick’s,” said Liam Herrick, executive director of IPRT.
All 16-year-olds subject to custody are now sent to Oberstown detention schools in Lusk, north Dublin, which is operated by the IYJS.
Mr Herrick said the problem now was what would happen 17-year-old offenders pending completion of the new detention centre.
“It is clear we cannot wait two to three years to remove children from St Patrick’s,” he said. “In the short term, all possible steps must be taken to reduce the numbers in detention through bail supports and use of community sanctions. There are also urgent child protection issues at St Patrick’s including around staff training and aftercare.”
Mr Herrick is concerned at the rise in the number of 17-year-olds in St Patrick’s. Official figures show there were 31 17-year-olds in St Patrick’s on Aug 1, compared to 21 on Jul 4 last.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she expected the new detention facility to be open in April 2014, ending the detention of all under 18s in adult prisons.
She described the release of the last 16-year-old as a “significant achievement”.
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