Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan has expressed concern about the “demonisation” of young offenders as she demanded the Dáil intervene to improve conditions for them.
Ms Logan has written to the Oireachtas health and children’s committee urging it to call in managers of the Oberstown child detention centre over delays in transferring inmates from Dublin’s notorious St Patrick’s Institute.
“The public debate seems to be going in the direction where we are now demonising these young people. So we are hearing reports about the number of assaults,” Ms Logan told RTÉ radio.
“I’m concerned that we are moving from providing a child-centred juvenile justice system that looks at the dignity and worth of these young people, rather than demonising them.”
Judges have warned that potentially dangerous young people are having to be allowed back onto the streets due to “staffing issues” at detention centres.
The Impact trade union denied that industrial relations issues were hampering the transfer of under-18s to Oberstown and said more resources were needed.
Ms Logan said she had “very serious” concerns that the move of vulnerable young offenders would not go ahead as scheduled.
“These children are known to the State for years, they are from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, they are early school leavers who have had problems with alcohol and drugs, mental health — they present a very complex picture. And while they are very challenging they are also vulnerable children who need to be cared for.”
Ms Logan was writing to the Oireachtas committee on a specific issue because “I don’t think I see anything in the Dáil debates at the moment that Oberstown is going to happen,” she said of the €50m transfer plan.
Judges have raised the issue of places available for young offenders a number of times in recent months.
Despite an indication from Government that a deal had been reached for a six to eight-place increase in Oberstown over the next two weeks, Impact said no such deal had been struck.
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