The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has released its 2015 Annual Report. The report features statistics relating to the profile of the total prison population in Ireland.
Also included is a progress report of the Service’s three-year strategic plan, with details on progress made to the end of 2015.
The statistics contained in the report offer some cause for concern in relation to short-term prisoner sentences, sentences for the non-payment of fines, and the imprisonment of young offenders.
In 2015, there were 13,987 committals to prisons. However, the majority of those incarcerated (89.58%) served sentences lasting less than a year. In fact, 10,229 served sentences of less than three months.
In ‘No Winners: the reality of short-term prison sentences’, a report by the Howard League, it was highlighted how short-term prison sentences do more harm than good*. Prison sentences, as opposed to community-based alternatives, do little to change the behaviour of prisoners. Furthermore, they have a profoundly negative impact on the lives of prisoners outside of prison, including the loss of jobs, homes, and family breakdown.
In addition, the cost of imprisonment is substantially more expensive than community based-alternatives, a burden that ultimately ends up being borne by the taxpayer.
9,883 individuals were committed for non-payment of fines, along with twenty-two debtors, in 2015.
IPRT has highlighted in the past how a high rate of recidivism and re-imprisonment exists among those who have been imprisoned for the non-payment of fines. It may be observed how such a measure disproportionately targets marginalised groups and those living in poverty**.
At one point, there were 171 males under the age of eighteen in custody. In addition, a further 598 individuals between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four were held in custody.
Due to ongoing development, young people are more vulnerable to becoming involved in offending behaviour. However, prison is not an appropriate response to this behaviour. It has been shown that intervention rather than imprisonment at critical points in young people’s lives can successfully lead to a reduction in the offending rate among young adults.***
These high numbers of incarceration emphasise that an alternative approach is needed that is more conducive to rehabilitation and that reduces recidivism among offenders.
The report is available to read here.
*More information on the report may be found here.
** Read how Ireland’s penal policy disproportionately targets the poor here.
***Learn more about this issue here.