Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today urged the Minister for Justice to formulate a comprehensive literacy and numeracy programme to be placed on the curriculum of penal institutions throughout the country. This programme should be compiled in conjunction with the Department of Education and experts in the field of literacy and numeracy.
The Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central was speaking on foot of a reply to a Parliamentary Question from Minister Shatter's department which stated that 52% of the Irish prison population are at Level 1 or Pre-Level 1 literacy standards.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: "Upon reviewing the details and having undertaken visits to institutions such as Mountjoy and St. Patrick's, I believe it is imperative that every penal institution in the country must have a formal literacy policy which is regularly reviewed and updated .The figures supplied to me from the Minister for Justice are really startling. The fact that over half of the prison population are at Level 1 or Pre-Level 1 standard really indicates the failure of the system and our society to tackle this problem.
"I would like to see the Minister entering into discussions with the Department of Education in order to formulate a programme that would ensure all prisoners engaged in educational programmes are literate and numerate by the end of their stay. This is not just about rehabilitating our prison population, but it is also about supplying inmates with the basic right to learn that they may have missed out on in their early years.
"The Department of Education has a pivotal role in this regard. The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has embraced the cause of literacy and numeracy so readily and the comprehensive Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life initiative is a real game changer for our education system. My hope is that the same vigour for literacy and numeracy will be embraced by the Department of Justice and the benefits of this programme can be extended to our prison population."