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Evening Herald: Mountjoy dungeons to boost cell capacity

16th August 2010

Charlie Mallon, writing in the Evening Herald, reports on overcrowding in Irish prisons, stating that new cells currently being created in the 'C base' at Mountjoy "will fall far short of what is needed."

"On August 1, 2006, when 21-year-old Gary Douch was kicked, beaten and strangled in a holding cell he shared with six others, the prison's population was 525. When Derek Glennon was stabbed to death at the jail in June 2007, the population was 568 - despite a commitment that it would not exceed 480. Four years on, last week, it held 749 prisoners, 221 more, without a single extra cell having been built."

The article goes on to report on the Irish Prison Service's annual report for 2009, quoting IPRT's response:

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), voiced its grave concern over the fact that not only was the prison population increasing, but the rate of increase is accelerating. It stressed that the figures - while alarming - were now seven months out of date and while the average number in custody in 2009 was 3,881, figures this year have consistently remained at above 4,200, reaching 4,491 on July 29 2010.

"The report reveals shocking increases in people going to prison for short sentences, with a 63pc increase in the use of three-month sentences. Short sentences of three months or less made up 53pc (5,750) of all committals under sentence in 2009; 70pc (7,655) of sentenced committals were for six months or less (compared with 62pc in 2008)."

The IPRT said that this is happening at a time when there is growing international recognition that such sentences are completely counter-productive. It also gave lie to the myth that the large majority of people sent to prison were violent offenders.

Commenting on the 16.7pc reduction in the cost of a prison space (from €92,717 in 2008 to €77,222 in 2009), IPRT executive director Liam Herrick said: "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," he added. "The real story is that prisons are more overcrowded, more dangerous and services are being reduced."

Read the original article in the Evening Herald here.

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