No more young offenders to be sent to adult prisons



Children's Minister Dr Katherine Zappone
Children’s Minister Dr Katherine Zappone

Young offenders will be sent to Oberstown rather than adult prisons from today, Children’s Minister Dr Katherine Zappone has announced.

With effect from today, young males under 18 who are sentenced to a period of detention to the courts will be sent to Oberstown rather than St Patrick’s Institution.

The Institution will be fully closed when Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald commences parts of the Prisons Act 2015 next Friday.

Dr Zappone said: “I am very pleased to announce that the Oberstown campus will commence taking 17 year old males who receive a sentence to a period of detention from midnight.

“This is the final step to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities. Unfortunately, there is always a need for a small number of young people to be detained, and it is best that this is in facilities which have a focus on addressing the needs of these young people as well as their offending behaviour.”

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), which has campaigned for the end of child imprisonment since it was founded in 1994, said the change in policy is “momentous”.

Fíona Ní Chinnéide
Fíona Ní Chinnéide

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, acting executive director of the IPRT, said: “This is a momentous day for how Ireland responds to children who offend.

“From midnight tonight, no child will be sentenced to adult prison in Ireland, and St Patrick’s Institution will finally be consigned to history from next week.

“Although this will not bring an immediate end to the detention of children in adult prisons, it does mean that the closing of one dark chapter in Ireland’s treatment of children is finally within view.”

However, she added: “For the 8 boys who will remain in Wheatfield Place of Detention, all measures must be taken to ensure that regimes align as closely as possible with the ethos of the detention school model within the constraints of a prison.

“In January 2017, 4 of the 8 boys then held in Wheatfield were locked up for 19 hours a day, which is particularly negative for teenagers.”