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IPRT Forum to Address Exploding Prisoner Numbers

21st June 2010


In response to reports of 938 (17.9%) prisoners out on temporary release, with 4,274 prisoners in custody, Ireland’s leading voice for penal reform is calling on the Government for an urgent review of sentencing practice and policy, rather than persisting with its “white elephant” proposals to build more prison spaces.

To this end, the Irish Penal Reform Trust will host an Open Public Forum on Monday 28th June 2010. Entitled Exploding Prisoner Numbers – Causes, Effects and Solutions, the event will examine the real causes of prison population growth, evaluating sentencing practice and policy alongside a deeper examination of crime patterns. The event will be chaired by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly.

The annual rate of increase in prison numbers is now running at almost 10%; this increase in the use of detention has occurred with little or no policy deliberation about the choices and options involved. IPRT believes that Ireland is drifting in the direction of the failed practices of incarceration of other jurisdictions, rather than taking clear political decisions about the direction we want our penal policy to take.

Speaking today, Executive Director Liam Herrick said:

“The Government should base its policies on sound evidence rather than rhetoric and populism. In the UK, the prison-building frenzy of the Blair years has given way to cross-party consensus that justice reinvestment – spending less on prisons and more on those disadvantaged communities from where most prisoners come – offers much more potential in terms of social and economic gain.

“The Government is clearly paying no heed to the reality – as demonstrated again and again by national and international experience – that putting more people in prison does not make society safer, it merely increases the profound economic and social costs to the taxpayer.”

Over 1,720 spaces have been added to the prison system since 1997, when prisoner numbers averaged at 2,422. Since then, the numbers in custody have doubled, further demonstrating that expanding the prison system does not and cannot solve the prison crowding crisis.

To stem the continuous rise in the prison population, we need investment in early intervention and prevention policies, coupled with appropriate investment and better co-ordination of reintegration initiatives, including structured, planned use of temporary release.

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick, please contact:

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

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


1 Prison Numbers:
On 11 June, 2010, there were 4,274 prisoners in custody; this does not include the numbers out on Temporary Release. Source: Dáil Questions, 15th June 2010

2 Open Forum 2010:
Exploding Prisoner Numbers - Causes, Effects and Solutions
takes place at 6pm on Monday 28th June, 2010 in the Morrison Hotel, Ormond Quay, Dublin 1. The Forum will be chaired by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, and speakers will include Tom O’Malley, Senior Lecturer in Law, NUI Galway and the Irish Sentencing Information System, and Vivian Geiran, Director of Operations, The Probation Service. Full details here.

3 Justice Reinvestment:
In September 2010, IPRT will host a conference on how to reduce crime through justice reinvestment, shifting resources away from the criminal justice system and towards crime prevention and early intervention strategies. Partners are Barnardos and IAYPIC.

4 “Cutting Crime: the Case for Justice Reinvestment” is a groundbreaking report published January 2010 by the cross-party House of Commons Select Committee on Justice. The report advocates re-allocation of funds on a scientific geographical basis to local services that demonstrate how they can prevent young people being drawn into crime in the first place.

In March 2010, the cross-party Home Affairs Committee published its report “The Government's Approach to Crime Prevention”, calling on the government to place more emphasis on early intervention when it comes to dealing with potential young offenders.

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