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Prisons crisis is now completely out of control

6th August 2010



The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign organisation, has today expressed grave concern over further dramatic increases in prison numbers revealed in the Annual Report of the Irish Prison Service (IPS). Not only is the prison population increasing, but the rate of increase is accelerating, and there is no strategy in place to address a crisis that is now completely out of control.

Commenting on the publication of the IPS Annual Report 2009, IPRT stressed that the figures - while alarming - are now 7 months out of date and the most recent figures available from 2010 are considerably higher. While the average number in custody in 2009 was 3,881, figures this year have consistently remained at above 4,200, reaching 4,491 on 29th July 2010.

The report reveals shocking increases in persons going to prison for short sentences, with a 63% increase in the use of 3-month sentences.  Coupled with Government acknowledgement of the under-use of community sanctions, this indicates a very serious problem of excessive imprisonment at District Court level. Short sentences of 3 months or less made up 53% (5,750) of all committals under sentence in 2009; 70% (7,655) of sentenced committals were for 6 months or less (compared with 62% in 2008.) This comes against growing international recognition that sentences of this type are completely counter-productive. These figures also give lie to the myth that the large majority of persons sent to prison are violent offenders.

Commenting on the much-heralded reduction of 16.7% in the cost of a prison space (from €92,717 in 2008 to €77,222 in 2009), IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick stated:

“In the context of this crisis, to point to a reduction in costs per prisoner is risible. Reductions in staff pay and worsening overcrowding are poor measures of success. The real story is that prisons are more overcrowded, more dangerous and services are being reduced.

“It should be emphasised that this crisis cannot be addressed by the Irish Prison Service – it can only be addressed by Government looking at the legislation it has introduced and the practice of the Courts, in particular at District Court level.

“Sending more persons to jail cannot be the barometer of success in our justice system. We need to ask whether imprisonment is the most effective way of preventing crime – and on that score all the evidence suggests that this is a hugely expensive and ineffective approach.”

For all media enquiries, please contact:

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

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


Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2009

The report is available for download here: http://www.irishprisons.ie/documents/AnnualReport2009PDF.pdf

Numbers in Custody, Thursday 29th July 2010:
(no’s in brackets = bed capacity per prison)

  • Mountjoy (male): 721 (630)
  • Mountjoy (female): 146 (105)
  • St Patrick's Institution: 220 (217)
  • Cork: 323 (272)
  • Limerick (male): 309 (290)
  • Limerick (female): 27 (20)
  • Castlerea: 400 (351)
  • Cloverhill: 475 (431)
  • Wheatfield: 505 (470)
  • Portlaoise: 279 (359)
  • Arbour Hill: 151 (148)
  • Training Unit: 114 (107)
  • Midlands: 560 (566)
  • Loughan House: 151 (160)
  •  Shelton Abbey: 110 (110)

Total 4,491 (4,236)

Source: Sunday Tribune

Shifting Focus: From Criminal Justice to Social Justice

Reinvesting in Better and Safer Communities

IPRT will host a 1-day Conference on Thurs 23rd Sept 2010, at the Radisson Blu, Golden Lane, Dublin 8. The Conference will address the social and economic dimensions of crime, and explore the theory and practice of how interventions can be designed to achieve effective results. For more info, see: www.iprt.ie/conference-2010

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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