Government to ban detention of children in adult prisons

The announcement has been welcomed by children rights organisations including Barnardos and the Children’s Rights Alliance

Government to ban detention of children in adult prisons

File Photo. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, 03-03-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

The Minister for Children has secured Cabinet approval for a new bill that will end the practice detaining young offenders within adult prisons.

The announcement has been welcomed by children rights organisations including Barnardos and the Children’s Rights Alliance.

The controversial practice, which has been in existence for over 25 years, has been heavily criticised by human rights bodies and children’s charities.

The organisations have warned that housing children with adult offenders is dangerous, inappropriate and runs counter to rehabilitation efforts.

Controversial practice

In April 2012, the previous government announced it was to end the controversial practice and confirmed that approximately €50m was being allocated towards the development of a new National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown.

In the Dáil last month however, Minister Zappone confirmed that seven young offenders were still being detained at Wheatfield Prison.

On Twitter today the minister announced that she will “shortly” be signing an order to end the practice.

No place for a child

Welcoming the announcement, the chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance Tanya Ward said “adult prison is no place for a child.”

“We welcome today’s development, which is long overdue,” she said. “This Ministerial Order must now be progressed swiftly so no child in Ireland is ever again put behind adult bars,” she said.

She said the practice was a “blot on Ireland’s human rights record” adding that it had been criticised for many years by statutory institutions including the Inspector of Prisons and the Ombudsman for Children.

June Tinsel, head of advocacy at Barnardos welcomed the news and urged the government to ensure the order is signed swiftly.

“The placing of children in adult prisons has always been unjustified and problematic,” she said.

"We are speaking of vulnerable young people here, who have often come from the care system or other disadvantaged situations.

"These vulnerable young people need appropriate supports and guidance. They do not need to be further disadvantaged and endangered."

It is unclear when the new order will come into effect, however Minister Zappone reportedly expects it to be approved within weeks.