The last 16-year-old boy in an adult jail has been released in what was seen as a “milestone” for the country.
It brings an end to a practice, repeatedly condemned by domestic and international prison watchdogs, of incarcerating 16-year-olds with adults in prisons.
Penal reformers have joined government ministers and prison bosses in hailing the development which is the first stage of separating child offenders from adults.
The next phase is to remove 17-year-old boys, which is expected to happen within the next 18 months.
Irish Prison Service director general Michael Donnellan said the release of the last 16-year-old from St Patrick’s Institution was a “historic milestone”.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it was a “significant achievement” while the Irish Penal Reform Trust said the IPS and the Irish Youth Justice Service deserve “great credit”.
Domestic watchdogs, including the Ombudsman for Children, and international bodies such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, have repeatedly demanded an end to the detention of under-18s in prisons.
Mr Donnellan told the Irish Examiner: “The Irish Prison Service is committed, in its newly-published Three-Year Strategic Plan and in conjunction with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, to the ending of the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution. The fact that from Jul 20 there are no longer any 16-year-olds in custody in St Patrick’s is a historic milestone in the realisation of this commitment.”
Ms Fitzgerald said the construction of the new National Children’s Detention Facility in the Oberstown campus in north Dublin would end the jailing of all child offenders under 18. Building is due to start in May 2013 and to be completed by Apr 2014.
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