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Vision not firefighting needed to tackle dysfunctional prison system

27th July 2010


The Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign group, has today expressed reservations at the announcement by Minister Ahern that Thornton Hall is to go ahead on a phased basis. While IPRT welcomes any plans to improve the inhumane and degrading conditions that exist in some prisons – most notably Mountjoy and Cork Prisons – we believe that plans to further expand the prison estate, without addressing the underlying causes of rocketing rates of imprisonment, are ill-judged and based on no overarching strategy.

Speaking today, IPRT Executive Director, Liam Herrick said:

“There is a very real danger that we will now get an expanded version of our dysfunctional prison system. The Prison Service has until now argued that the new prison would provide high-quality single cells each with sanitation and showers, and a new level of regimes and services. That the prison is now to go ahead but already planning to double up indicates that the emphasis is not on improving conditions and regimes but merely increasing capacity.

"Questions remain as to what plans are in place for addressing the chronic and inhumane conditions in Mountjoy Prison, and whether Ireland can afford an ever-expanding prison estate which fails to address the underlying causes of crime.

“What we have is a prison system in crisis, and what we need from the Minister, the Department and the Irish Prison Service is vision - not more firefighting.”

On this announcement, IPRT is calling on Government and the Irish Prison Service to:

  1. Make public the prison population projections on which plans to expand the prison system are based
  2. Conduct a thorough and systematic review of sentencing to establish the reasons and patterns of the growth of prison population
  3. Commission feasibility studies into the potential for refurbishment of older prisons with a view to ending the practice of ‘slopping out’ at the earliest opportunity
  4. Target investment in reintegration support and resettlement

Increasing rates of imprisonment is not a mark of success of our criminal justice system. On the contrary, lower recidivism rates and fewer people going to prison would demonstrate that Ireland’s prison system and our wider social policies were effective and creating a safer society for all.

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer,

 Irish Penal Reform Trust

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


Planning for the Future Failure of Social Policies
Opinion piece in Irish Independent, 21st Sept 2009.

IPRT Position Paper on Thornton Hall
IPRT Position Paper on Prison Building Policy - Thornton Hall

Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort. For more information, please visit: www.iprt.ie

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