Clare Fine Gael TD and Spokesperson on Juvenile Justice, Joe Carey, has said today that the state is neglecting troubled youths by failing to provide a lack of adequate social and educational supports to help turn their lives around.
In particular, Deputy Carey said that children on bail, many of whom may come from troubled homes, are not given enough supports to comply with their bail conditions.
Consequently, many of these children are ending up in detention on remand, locked up in places like St. Patrick’s Institute, with hardened criminals, when they may not even get a custodial sentence.
Deputy Carey said that some children now as young as 10 years old are presenting with drug and alcohol problems, and the state has been slow to respond to the changing social environment.
He pointed to the fact that a pilot scheme offering support service for young offenders on bail in Dublin and Limerick has been scrapped.
Deputy Carey said:
“We have a duty to break the cycle of offending with juvenile offenders who come before the courts. Many of these youths come from severely disadvantaged and troubled home environments. Therefore, strict bail conditions can be difficult to adhere to without adequate supports.
Currently, these supports are just not available. We need to look at ways to reduce to the number of children placed in detention on remand in highly unsuitable detention facilities, which are little more than criminal breeding grounds.
More worrying is that studies show that only 44% of children held on remand go on to receive an actual detention order. So, because juvenile offenders have a difficulty complying with bail conditions – and the reason for this can be environmental – we as a society lock them up without any attempt to give them the help they need.
We should be looking at bail hostel accommodation and things such as remand fostering. Yet, a formal bail support system is not on the agenda of this current government and Gardaí are left to carry the slack in many cases.
In other countries, they have specialised lawyers, judges and social workers dealing specifically with youth justice. Yet in Ireland we are years behind best European practice.
Many of our young offenders come from very troubling homes, and even among professionals working with them, there is a feeling that it is unrealistic to expect these young people to comply with strict bail conditions.
With a dedicated juvenile detention facility at Thornton Hall years away from being a reality, we cannot continue to treat our young offenders the same way as we treat our adult offenders.
Unless we make concerted efforts to break the cycle of offending at a young age, society will be picking up the tab for your troubled youths for decades to come.”