End jailing of boys at St Patrick's, say campaigners


PENAL REFORM campaigners have called for an end to the practice of locking up teenagers in prison for up to 23 hours a day for their own protection.

Last year a total of 161 young people aged 16 and 17 were detained in St Patrick’s Institution which forms part of the Mountjoy Prison complex.

Some 25 per cent of these teenagers were placed on protection because they feared for their own safety.

Dr Ursula Kilkelly, chair of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, said the continued detention of boys at St Patrick’s was inappropriate and not in compliance with international human rights standards.

“International rights monitoring bodies have consistently recommended the removal of children from St Patrick’s Institution,” she said.

“It is an inappropriate environment for children. We are told they will be transferred to a new national child detention facility but we do not know for certain when this will occur.”

She was speaking following the report of the Irish Penal Reform Trust’s Detention of Children in Irelandreport, which sets out international standards and best practice for the use of custodial measures for children in Ireland and internationally.

The report outlines more than 60 recommendations across a number of areas aimed at reforming the sector. They include:

* Bringing an immediate end to the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution

* Extending the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to receive individual complaints from children held in St Patrick’s Institution

* Improving child protection procedures and practices in all places where children are detained.

St Patrick’s, which houses up to 240 teenagers and young men between 16 and 21, has long been subject to criticism from both national and international bodies.

In 1985 the Whitaker report recommended that St Patrick’s be closed down immediately because it was “outdated, lacking in educational and recreational facilities and an environment that would contribute to the delinquency of the juvenile”.

There has been more recent criticism from groups such as the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

Prison officials, however, say many workshops have reopened in the meantime and that teenagers under the 18 are housed separately from older inmates.