€50m revamp shifts young offenders out of adult jails
THE Government has today begun the practice of moving underage males out of adult prisons on a permanent basis.
The Oberstown facility in Lusk, North Dublin, will begin taking 17-year-olds currently remanded in custody in St Patrick's Institution.
In a statement last night, the Ministers for Justice and Children stressed the importance of ending the practice of under age men being placed in adult facilities.
Before now boys under 17 were detained at St Patrick's Institution, part of the Mountjoy Prison complex.
Children's Minister James Reilly made the announcement following discussions with his cabinet colleague and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
The Government had pledged to end the practice of accommodating 17-year-old inmates in adult prisons by the end of 2014.
However, a delay in passing legislation as well as a delay in the completion of the €50m overhaul of the Oberstown facility meant this target was not met.
The work has resulted in eight additional places for juvenile prisoners in remand.
"Substantial progress has been made in this area in recent years and I am committed to achieving the ending of the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities on the earliest possible date, Dr Reilly said.
"The first five units of new residential accommodation have now been finished on the Oberstown campus and these are gradually being brought into use.
"There are now sufficient additional care staff available from an ongoing recruitment programme in Oberstown to open an additional residential detention unit, resulting in a 20pc increase in available capacity for males from 40 to 48 places," he added.
Minister Fitzgerald said the housing of 17-year-olds in the adult facility of St Patrick's Institution has been a concern for a considerable period of time.
"In cooperation with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am anxious to ensure the ending of the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities, to include 17-year-old males who are currently serving a sentence, is ended at the earliest possible date," she said.
"I am requesting the various agencies concerned in the criminal justice system to cooperate closely in the implementation of this measure."
A total of €50m was allocated by the Government three years ago for the redevelopment of the Oberstown campus. The first five units of new residential accommodation have now been finished at the campus and will be gradually brought into use.
In the past two years, there have been fewer than eight under-18s remanded in custody in St Patrick's Institution at any one time.