Costly and disjointed prison escort service set for change

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

prison portlaoise

Prison escort service in for a shake up

Prison officers and gardaí in Laois could be doing fewer escorts to Dublin courts as a result of a value for money review.

Laois TD and Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan welcomed the findings of a review into prisoner escort services and announced plans to establish an oversight group to assess its recommendations and implement the programme.

A statement said the review, entitled ‘Value for Money and Policy Review of Prisoner Escorts in the Criminal Justice System’, found that while the current system has many strengths, there are a number of areas with scope for improvement.

At present, prisoner escorts are carried out by the Prison Service Escort Corps (PSEC), prison-based staff, and by An Garda Síochána.

A Department of Justice statement on the report says review identifies the opportunity to:

-       significantly reduce the need for prisoner court appearances through greater use of video-link facilities

-       introduce legislation to provide for electronic warrants and streamline committal procedures

The Department says the report also identified the high cost of reliance on Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána officers, a disjointed delivery model and the absence of specialist logistics and technical support expertise as key challenges.

Minister Flanagan said an oversight group would not be set up.

“The management and delivery of prisoner escort services is a complex task and one which, at present, is carried out by the Prison Service Escort Corps (PSEC), by prison-based staff and by An Garda Síochána.

“I am pleased to see the review found that our current prisoner escort systems have many strengths, including the efficiency and professionalism of the staff.  It is also important to acknowledge however that there are areas where we can improve.

“Given the complex nature of this area, and the multi-agency impact of the report’s conclusions and recommendations, I think it is important to establish a delivery oversight group to help further analyse the recommendations and establish an implementation programme,” he said.