100. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she can confirm that criminal gangs or their representatives have no influence in the organisation of life within the prison sector with particular reference to organisation of and access to rehabilitative programmes or any other aspect of the regime while they are in prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40778/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can advise the Deputy that all committals to the prison service are dealt with in a manner which ensures the safety of the prisoner themselves, the staff and the entire prisoner population. Each prisoner is placed in accommodation deemed appropriate to the individual based on the information made available to the prison staff on committal, which would include health, offence, criminal connections and possible conflicts with other prisoners.
I can further advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service is committed to preventing the inappropriate influence of prisoners associated with gangs over persons either in custody or in the community. Measures taken on a continuous basis include regular targeted searching, placement in high security institutions, screened visits, barring of certain visitors, the use of CCTV and mobile phone detectors, examination and monitoring of mail, close supervision of all visits, metal detectors, the setting up of the Operational Support Group (OSG) and the introduction of drug detection dogs.
There are a number of mechanisms available to Governors to manage behaviour which may undermine the prison regime and good order. These include:
- Actively managing breaches of discipline within the prisons. There were 8,070 disciplinary hearings into breaches of discipline in 2015.
- Rule 62 of the Prison Rules 2007 allows for the removal of prisoners from structured activity or association on the grounds of maintaining good order or safe and secure custody.
- Rule 63 of the Prison Rules 2007 allows that a prisoner may, at his own request or when the Governor considers it necessary for the maintenance of good order and safe and secure custody, be kept separate from other prisoners who are reasonably likely to cause the prisoner significant harm. Under Rule 63 a Governor may authorise a prisoner to participate in authorised activity with other prisoners of the same category.
The majority of prisoners, other than in exceptional circumstances, have access to the rehabilitative programmes in the respective prisons.