Dáil Éireann - Volume 555 - 17 October, 2002

Written Answers. - Prisoner Welfare.

  142. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the annual forum of the national steering group on deaths in custody has been cancelled for 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18629/02]

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The national steering group on deaths in custody agreed to postpone the forum, initially scheduled for later this year, until next spring at the request of the Irish Prisons Service and as part of a course of action by that service to ensure that their expenditure for the year remains within the agreed allocation for 2002, which included an additional €20 million for overtime. The Irish Prisons Service, like all organisations, must operate within its budget and manage its operations accordingly. The national steering group was satisfied that the postponement of the forum would not have any implications for the safety of prisoners with regard to prevention of self-harm.

  Each prison and place of detention operates a local suicide awareness group, which is composed of representatives of the various disciplines in the prison, e.g. management, prison psychology service, probation and welfare service, chaplaincy and staff. These groups meet on a regular basis to review incidents of self harm, including deaths in custody. The groups may make recommendations to the national steering group on deaths in custody who may then disseminate the information to the other suicide awareness groups throughout the prison system.

  The Deputy should be assured that all of the suicide awareness groups in the prison system continue to function as normal and that, quite separate from the annual forum, the national steering group continue to meet as often as is deemed necessary in order to fulfil its role.