Sex offenders at Castlerea prison 'rewarded' and living in semi-open housing
Each dwelling house is equipped with its own kitchen and "there is a gym facility available to those who wish to avail of it"
Fourteen sex offenders are currently being housed in an eight house development at Castlerea prison as a ‘reward’ for engaging in prison based therapeutic interventions to enhance public safety on their release.
The Grove area of eight dwellings was built in 2007 and has capacity to house 55 prisoners.
The incentive programmes for sex offenders - launched last November - comes against the background of the number of sex offenders in Irish prisons increasing in recent years.
Today, there are 662 prisoners in sex offenders in prison making up 17pc of the prison population.
The Irish Prison Service (IPS) launched the Grove initiative for sex offenders in order to incentivise participation in constructive activities and prison-based therapeutic interventions to enhance public safety on release.
On the prison life experienced by inmates there, the IPS spokesman said: “
“The Grove is a semi – open custodial setting within the confines of Castlerea Prison.
He said: “Prisoners in the Grove area commence their day from 8am onwards. Each dwelling house is of a standard style similar to any space found in a community setting and is equipped with its own kitchen that includes cooking and cleaning facilities to support independent living skills.”
“Depending on resources each work activity commences from 9am with school programmes commencing from 9:30am. School programmes and work activities cease between 4 pm and 7 pm daily.
He said: “There is a gym facility available to those who wish to avail of it and a walking route throughout the environs of the Grove area for others.
In a written Dail response to Catherine Connolly TD (Ind), Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee (FG) stated that prisoners who wish to be considered for a transfer to the Grove must meet a set of clearly defined criteria.
According to Minister McEntee, these include the completion of all risk relevant interventions identified in their sentence plan, be drug free, be on enhanced regime and have no disciplinary reports for a period of 3 months prior to the date of anticipated placement within the Grove.
She stated: “This incentivisation of engagement augments sentence planning and better identifies a pathway of interventions to address dynamic risk factors known to be associated with sex offending. Their case must also be considered at a multi-disciplinary meeting prior to any transfer being approved.
According to a spokesman for the IPS, the Grove area is designed to support the development of independent living skills.
The spokesman said that the Grove area in Castlerea was selected for a number of reasons “including access to services, its location away from the main prison and for other security and operational reasons”.
The IPS spokesman added: “Currently, there is one scheduled visiting period throughout the week for physical visits, prisoners can also avail of virtual visits twice weekly or can make two six minute daily phone calls.
Minister McEntee stated It is the intention of the Irish Prison Service to continue to develop this pathway for prisoners convicted of a sexual offences, subject to its ongoing review.”
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