Saturday 17 March 2018

Mountjoy unsuitable for juveniles – children’s ombudsman

Lyndsey Telford

THE GOVERNMENT must find an alternative to locking up young offenders next to hardened criminals in north Dublin's Mountjoy Prison after pulling the plug on the Thornton Hall super-prison, it has been claimed.

Children's ombudsman Emily Logan said detaining juveniles at St Patrick's Institution was against their human rights, claiming it was inappropriate and unsafe.

"The very fact that children are being incarcerated in a prison at all in Ireland is a serious contravention of international human rights standards," she said.

"The prison itself has been a focus of sustained criticism over many years at national and international level as well as from within the prison itself."

The Government announced last week that it would defer plans for a super-prison on a green field site in north Co Dublin as part of capital expenditure cuts.

The plans would have included the redevelopment of Oberstown juvenile detention centre, where 16 and 17-year-olds would be kept away from adult criminals.

But youngsters will continue to be detained in St Patrick's as a result of the shelving of the project.

As children's ombudsman, Ms Logan is responsible for protecting the rights of children across Ireland. She warned that St Patrick's is an entirely inappropriate setting for children.

"The building is atrocious and unsuitable, and of more concern to me is the fact that these 16 and 17-year-olds are not viewed as children but rather as prisoners, and remain detained in a predominantly custodial environment in which some of them have told my office they do not feel safe," she said.

St Patrick's Institution is a medium-security prison for 16 to 21-year-olds that is run by the Irish Prison Service.

Citing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ms Logan said that offending children must be treated differently from adults and that 16 and 17-year-olds should not be detained in a custodial environment.

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