IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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IPS Annual Report: IPRT greatly concerned at dramatic increase in numbers

14th August 2009

The dramatic increase of 13.6% in committals to Irish prisons in 2008 is of great concern, with clear warning signals regarding the failing system of court-imposed fines, the impact of mandatory sentencing for drugs offences, and the sharp increase in short-term sentences.

Commenting on the publication of the Annual Report 2008 of the Irish Prison Service, Irish Penal Reform Trust today highlighted three critical issues:

  • The increase of 88.7% in committals for non-payment of a court ordered fine demonstrates that the Courts supervision of fines is simply not working; imprisonment for fine default should be a measure of last resort.
  • The increase of 38% in prisoners serving 10 years or more is a direct result of mandatory and presumptive sentencing practice; the benefits of such legislation is questionable when chronic overcrowding does not allow for meaningful engagement with rehabilitation treatments.
  • The increase of 54% in short-term sentences (3 months or less) is also of great concern. Short-term sentences (of 6 months or less) cause more harm than good, and may even present a danger to society.

Increasing the size of and numbers in our prisons does not - and will not - reduce levels of crime. It merely serves to increase prisoner numbers.

Instead, building smaller prisons within the community, with emphasis on alternatives to custody and prison as a last resort, while investing in early intervention and prevention measures, will be of far greater benefit to society.

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide,
Campaigns & Communications Officer
Irish Penal Reform Trust

T: + 353 1 874 1400
E: communications@iprt.ie


Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2008The report can be accessed here.

More figures:

  • There was a 24.6% increase in sentenced committals in 2008.
  • 43% of all committals under sentence in 2008 were for 3 months or less; 62% were for 6 months or less.
  • 87.5% of sentenced committals in 2008 were for non-violent offences.
  • 93% of women committed under sentence to prison in 2008 were for non-violent offences.

Scotland: Criminal Justice and Licensing BillThis Bill will introduce a presumption against sentences of six months or less, and see judges forced to provide clear reasons for handing down such a disposal. See: www.iprt.ie/contents/1251