In Ireland, policy in relation to imprisonment has traditionally been separated from the wider questions of criminal justice policy. IPRT believes that any attempt to plan for the future of Ireland’s prison system must be informed by an understanding of how political decisions impact on that system, and by a clear vision of the proper role of imprisonment in the context of all of the penalties available within the criminal justice system.
This Position Paper sets out the main issues relating to planning for the future of the prison system including the size of the prison population. IPRT believes that such planning should be carried out with reference to the principle of imprisonment as a measure of last resort, and must be informed by an understanding of how various policy decisions impact on prisoner numbers.
In examining these interlinked issues, IPRT has looked at the experience of penal policy development in a number of other jurisdictions, including England and Wales, Scotland, Finland and the States of Washington and Minnesota in the US. This Position Paper also builds on an analysis of the specific proposals to build the largest prison in the history of the State at Thornton Hall (see IPRT Position Paper on Thornton Hall).
IPRT believes that the critical question in analysing the current and future level of our prison population is not simply dependent on the aggregate total of prisoners but requires a more searching examination of whether we need to imprison all those who we currently detain.
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