Plan to 'radically' change prison governance promised in a strategy that highlights 'pride in the uniform'

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Prison Service has advanced plans for refurbishment of Portlaoise Prison

Portlaoise Prison

A new strategy for running prisons in Portlaoise and elsewhere in Ireland promises a radical overhaul in Governance but also confirms that the plan to deliver the overhaul does not yet exist.

The commitment is made in the new Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2019 – 2022 launched by the Minister for Justice and Equality and Laois TD Charles Flanagan at the Irish Prison Service College, Portlaoise.

Governance is one of the five so-called key strategic pillars and outcomes. The first of these is supporting staff and among the aims is 'cultivating pride in our uniform'.

In her introduction to the plan, Ms McCaffrey said the service has 'ambitious plans' to strengthen governance and accountability.

"We will embed a culture of evidence and evaluation and ensure an open, transparent and accountable Prison Service in line with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. We will continue to build internal capacity to sustain, improve and communicate our performance," she said.

However, the plan does not outline what the overhaul of Governance will entail for prisons but it says work is underway. 

"The Department of Justice and Equality in tandem with the Irish Prison Service are currently designing a new governance framework for the Irish Prison Service to strengthen governance, compliance and accountability. 

"This new structure will radically alter how the organisation is governed and will support external oversight already in place by the Inspector of Prisons, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane and Degrading Treatment, the Comptroller and Auditor General and will ensure as an organisation we are fully accountable," it says.

A clue to what the overhaul in Governance could mean is found in the Supporting Staff pillar. 

The plan commits to reviewing senior management structures and local management structures within prisons. It wants to strengthen functional management to make sure there is clarity regarding responsibility and accountability.

The strategy aims to widen the HR Teams. There also a plan to promote and implement clear standards of behaviour and ethics (Code of Ethics/ Acceptable Behaviour Standards).

A new communication platform is also on the cards for publishing all HR related Standard Operating Procedures and Governors Orders.

Another target is: "Cultivating pride in our uniform".

In a statement, Minister Flanagan noted that improvement to the governance structures of the Irish Prison Service, including the appointment of a new Prisons Advisory Board, was at the core of the new Strategic Plan.

"Over the years various reports have called for reform of the governance of the Irish Prison Service, most recently recommendations were made in the Effectiveness and Renewal Group Report regarding the transformation of the Department of Justice and Equality, which repeated the recommendation that the Irish Prison Service become a scheduled office under primary legislation.

"This is very important and my Department is working with the Director-General, (Caron Mc Caffrey), and the Irish Prison Service, to design a new governance framework for the Prison Service which will strengthen governance, compliance and accountability,” he said.

“This new governance structure, together with the new Advisory Board, will support existing external oversight of the Irish Prison Service already in place” he added.

The FIVE STRATEGIC PILLARS 2019 – 2022 are outlined as follows.

1. Staff Support: We will create a more supporting, working environment with a more
engaged workforce
2. Prisoner Support: We will further develop the integration of prisoner care and
support services to deliver more effective rehabilitation to prisoners
3. Safe and Secure Custody: We will create a more safe and secure custodial setting in
our Estate making prisons a safer place for staff, prisoners and visitors
4. The Prison Estate: We will invest in a prison estate that provides safe, secure and
humane custody, that upholds the dignity of all users and that reflects and supports a
modern and progressive penal policy
5. Governance: We will ensure an open, transparent and accountable Prison Service.

The Minister has also launched a new Irish Prison Service / Educational Training Boards Ireland Joint Prison Education Strategy.