Writing in the Irish Examiner, Cormac O'Keeffe reports on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern's statement that he is "fully committed" to implementing the findings of a Government report which called for a major expansion of community sanctions instead of imprisonment.
The Value for Money and Policy Review (VFM) of the Community Service Scheme found that Community Service Orders (CSOs) were a "very cost effective option" and that prisons were about seven times more expensive.
The article details some findings in the Value For Money report:
- The average cost of CSOs was €4,295 per offender, compared with €27,478 per offender in prison.
- The number of CSOs issued by the District Courts fell from 2,883 in 2003 to 2,500 in 2007.
- The Community Service Scheme has capacity to take three times as many offenders as it currently does.
The article cites the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) calls on the Government to act and move towards to use of community sanctions:
"One of the most significant findings of the report is that there are several thousand cases each year in the District Court where a sentence of imprisonment is made and where Community Service Orders could potentially be considered. It seems that – on a very practical level – wider use of community service has the potential to significantly reduce the pressure on the Irish Prison Service, and the conditions in Irish prisons," said IPRT director Liam Herrick.