Tuesday 22 October 2019

Boys are sent to the detention centre where word 'prison' is never mentioned


School: The two boys will have lessons at the Oberstown campus. Picture: Mark Condren
School: The two boys will have lessons at the Oberstown campus. Picture: Mark Condren
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The two boys convicted of the murder of Ana Kriegel have been sent to a detention centre where the word "prison" is never mentioned.

They will be detained at a campus at Oberstown, Lusk, in rural north county Dublin, until sentencing.

It is also the place where they are most likely to serve any custodial sentence that may follow.

They will live in residential units with more than 50 other young offenders, ranging in age from 13 up to their 18th birthday and each will have his own bedroom.

Young offenders serving custodial sentences that run past their 18th birthday are transferred to adult prisons.

The primary objective of the Oberstown campus, in line with the Children Act 2001, is to provide appropriate care, education, training and other programmes with a view to reintegrating the young offenders successfully back into their communities.

It is a challenging task for the management and staff as only those at the high end of under-age offending are sent there.

The emphasis in dealing with juvenile offenders in the modern justice system is to keep young people out of detention and sort them out through the juvenile liaison or diversion programmes.

But as the only centre now holding under-18s, Oberstown houses a fair cross section of young criminals.

A snapshot of offenders held during a three-month period last year showed a total of 92 young people on the campus, 52 on detention orders and 40 on remand.

A breakdown of the group disclosed that 28 had been locked up for assault, including sexual attacks, another six on firearms and offensive weapons offences, 20 for criminal damage, 14 for road traffic offences while 24 had multiple charges of theft and fraud.

In the past, offenders included juvenile members of the gangs involved in the long-running Limerick feud.

More than half of those on detention orders in the snapshot were serving a sentence of between two and 12 months, 17 were committed for between a year and 18 months, and the rest had been sentenced for between three and six years.

Over a fifth of the group were members of the Traveller community, 65 were listed as Irish, five EU nationals and two of African background.

Almost a third had suffered the loss of one or both parents, either through death, imprisonment or no long-term contact.

A parent in the case of 17 offenders, both parents in one case, had died, while at least 13 young people had no contact with one or both parents over a long period.

Four of the population of 92 were girls.

Almost three-quarters were considered to have substance abuse problems while 38 had mental health issues with most of them on medication for ADHD, 23 were in care and 34 exhibited challenging behaviour. Almost half of the population were not in school prior to detention, while a fifth had a diagnosed learning disability.

After arriving in the campus, the care needs of each offender are assessed by a team of professionals - and all attend school while in custody.

Irish Independent

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