4 key questions to put to election candidates
2011 could prove to be a key moment of opportunity to achieve important
commitments to a programme of penal reform. To make sure these issues get
on the agenda of the main parties and independent candidates, we need you to raise these issues on the doorsteps, shopping centres, train stations - wherever candidates are canvassing. We suggest some possible questions below.
shortly be publishing a short analysis of
the parties’ manifestos from the penal reform angle, so check back here soon - in the meantime, make your voice and your vote count for penal reform!
are four key questions to ask your TD’s – please report back on any commitments
made by candidates, so that we can hold them to account later! Send to Jane at email@example.com
1. What will you do to ensure that slopping out in
Irish prisons is brought to an end during the next Dáil?
For almost two decades, Ireland has received
international condemnation for its failure to address this serious human rights
issue; it is a national disgrace.
- 1,003 men were slopping out in Irish prisons – approx. 28% of prisoners – on 17th Dec
means that prisoners who are slopping out are frequently sharing cells with
is highly likely that there will be legal action taken by prisoners
against the State in the future; similar action has cost Scotland millions.
2. What is your position on Thornton Hall?
believes a revised prison building programme should be based on 3 core
- Humane conditions as a priority – Cork, Mountjoy and
Limerick (female and male) in urgent need of refurbishment
- No expansion in overall numbers – any new
cells should replace old cells
- Small local prisons should be preferred over large
prisons; more open prisons are necessary for dealing with less serious
- Over €42m
has already been spent on this ‘white elephant’ project, mostly on the land
are proven internationally to be difficult to manage
location of Thornton Hall will decrease opportunities for the successful
integration of prisoners back into families and communities
believes Thornton Hall as currently planned will only serve to increase the
prison population, it will not address prison overcrowding.
allocated capital expenditure for buildings and equipment in the prison service
for 2011 is €33.4m. However, it is clear that
the development of Thornton Hall, even on a phased basis, is not likely to
proceed in any meaningful way in the near future.
3. Are you committed to sentencing reform?
- A review of mandatory sentencing
legislation is needed. Specifically, IPRT believes that drugs legislation is
leading to large numbers of low-level figures receiving
long sentences, while senior figures are escaping these sanctions.
- We continue to commit extremely high
numbers to prison for less serious offences; the principle of imprisonment as a
last resort should be applied to all non-violent and less serious offenders:
Fines Act must be fully commenced with urgency, towards ending the
imprisonment of fine defaulters
Community Service Order Bill, which would require judges to consider
community service for sentences of 6 months or less, should be enacted
proportion of our prison population serving long sentences for drug crime as a
result of mandatory and presumptive sentencing laws has increased significantly
in recent years.
- The laws were introduced to target major drug
dealers, but there is growing evidence that a large number of those convicted are low-level figures in the drug trade who may be holding or
transporting drugs on behalf of others; many of those convicted are first
drugs strategy that is centred on mandatory sentencing means directing
resources to prisons which could otherwise be spent on policing or drug
- Research shows that conventional police drug enforcement can reduce crimes against persons
by about 70% more than mandatory minimum sentencing. However, investing the
same resources in drug treatment should reduce serious crimes (against both
property and persons) around fifteen times as much as would imprisonment.
2010, there were nearly 7,000 committals to prison for non-payment of
also saw 7,655 (70% of committals) sent to prison for sentences of less than 6 months; eliminating
these short and counter-productive prison sentence would create significant
savings for the Prison Service and the Garda.
4. Are you committed to the Spent Convictions Bill?
Will you make it a priority?
Ireland is the only European country which does
not provide for any system of expungement of spent convictions (so-called
‘second chance legislation’). This means that even minor convictions can remain
a permanent barrier to employment:
is proven to be one of the biggest factors in desistance from crime and
proposed Spent Convictions Bill, published by the outgoing Government, received
legislation is ready for re-introduction to the Oireachtas, following
considerable work by the Dept of Justice and Law Reform officials.
need to ensure that this is a political priority for a new Government
and that a revised Bill is enacted in the first session of the new Oireachtas.