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The Irish Times: Sharp increase in Irish prison population

6th August 2018

The Irish Times has reported on the sharp increase in Ireland’s prison population in 2018, following years of decline and stability. The article states that for the first time since 2014, the daily numbers in custody have regularly breached 4,000.

IPRT is quoted in the article as being “particularly alarmed by persistent overcrowding in women’s prisons” as the female population did not experience the same decrease in numbers as the male population between 2014 and 2017.

IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone refers to the figures as “disturbing”, explaining that “the reason that is so significant is because once our prison numbers get to this level, it has an exponential effect on what happens within the prisons.” This can include a reduction in the ability of prison staff to manage numbers, with a knock-on effect for access to educational and other programmes.

IPRT is also quoted in the article expressing concern about the low number of community service orders given to women, explaining that short-term sentences do not work because there is simply “not enough time to do anything approaching rehabilitation.” The legislation covering community service orders was supposed to drastically reduce the number of short-term prison sentences, however, use of community service orders as an alternative to short-term prison sentences has not shown a marked increase.

For the full article, which contains further analysis of the situation, click here.

The Irish Times has also published ‘Punishment and rehabilitation’ an editorial on the pressures the prison system has been facing due to the consistently increasing prison population levels. It emphasises the need for publication of data on the incidence of crime, detection rates and the use of alternatives to custody. The editorial states that clear sentencing guidelines, prepared by a judicial council, would go some way to improving the current issues.

IPRT voiced particular concerns about the treatment of women within the court system, with particular problems arising from overcrowding and a fall in numbers sentenced to community service.

For the full article, click here.

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