Writing in The Irish Times, Ciara O'Brien reports on how the number of people being sent to Irish jails is continuing to rise, while the cost of providing prison places also continue to soar.
The article is reporting on the Irish Prison Service's annual report for 2008, which shows an increase of 13.6% on total number of committals to prison (to 13,557) and a rise of just under 25% (to 8,043) in those committed to prison under sentence.
The daily snapshot of the prison population found an increase of almost 11% in the number of people in custody (to 3,695.) The increase in numbers of prisoners is attributed to increasing successful prosecutions and extra court sittings.
The cost of prison places was €92,717 in 2008, an 8.6% increase on 2007.
The article also details other increases across: number of people serving sentences over 10 years (38%), mainly due to drugs convictions; and an increase in the numbers committed for non-payment of a court ordered fines, marking just under 89% increase to 2,520.
The article quotes the Irish Penal Reform Trust as saying the increase in the prison population was of "great concern", and that IPRT questioned the benefits of areas of imprisoning people for non-payment of court ordered fines and mandatory sentencing leading. IPRT also raised serious concerns over plans to increase capacity in the system.
"Increasing the size 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," the group said.
Read The Irish Times article in full here.