Dáil Éireann - Volume 625 - 18 October, 2006

Written Answers. - Prison Education Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the availability of E-College, the FÁS distance learning programme; the number of participants in this programme in each prison where it is available; if the programme will be extended to all prisons by the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33373/06]

  Mr. McDowell: During 2005 E-College, a FÁS distance learning delivery programme, was piloted in the Training Unit where it has been successfully implemented. In 2005, 4 prisoners completed a range of course activities and to date, in 2006, 15 prisoners have completed or are currently engaged on the programme.

Following the successful implementation of the pilot it is planned to extend the programme to other institutions on a phased basis. It is envisaged that the programme will be introduced to St Patrick’s Institution before the end of 2006.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the prisons where the computerised work training database system has been installed and activated; if it will be installed in all prisons by the end of 2006; the information which will be available from the database; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33374/06]

  Mr. McDowell: A new work training database system was developed in 2005 to facilitate the tracking of prisoners’ participation and progress in work and vocational training activities and courses during their time in custody. It will also assist in the monitoring and evaluation of the level and effectiveness of work and training services to prisoners.

The new database was rolled out to six institutions during 2005: Arbour Hill, Castlerea, Midlands, St Patrick’s, Training Unit and Wheatfield. It is being implemented in the rest of the prison estate on a phased basis and to date, in 2006, it has been installed in Cork, Dochas and Limerick prisons.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the CONNECT programme is not fully implemented at Limerick Prison, in view of his statement in reply to a parliamentary question reply of 21 June 2005 that the project was being extended to Limerick; the steps being taken [1821] to ensure the implementation of this programme in Limerick prison as soon as possible, in view of the value and need for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33375/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding from the EU that was available for the CONNECT programme in prisons; the amount received for the programme; the way the funding was allocated and if it was used; if the available funding has all been allocated; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33376/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the CONNECT programme in prisons; the steps being taken to ensure the roll-out of the programme, particularly in view of Recommendation Rec (2006) of the Committee of Ministers on the European Prison Rules No. 106 (details supplied); the schedule for rolling-out the project to all prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33377/06]

  Mr. McDowell: I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 to 196, inclusive, together.

The CONNECT project was launched in 2000 as a part of the Prison Service Training and Development Programme under the National Development Plan. There is no separate budget for this programme and it was not funded by the European Union. The funding involved has been provided annually by the exchequer as part of the Prisons Vote.

Roll-out of the project commenced at Limerick Prison but was subsequently put on hold against the background of the industrial relations and attendant financial difficulties in the prisons that were finally resolved last year.

The future roll out plans for the various elements of the CONNECT project are being considered in the context of the elaboration of a system of Positive Sentence Management in the prisons. Specifically, the individual programme planning elements that were part of the project need to be more centrally located in the Prison Service’s sentence management systems. The work training elements envisaged under the project are currently being enhanced across the prison system. This involves the provision of dedicated new staffing and funding for the expansion of work training in the prison system.