17th August 2023
In an Irish Times report, Conor Gallagher, writes about the number of very short prison sentences being imposed by judges more than doubling in recent years. A total of 994 sentences of three months or less were handed down by the criminal courts last year, an increase of 43 per cent on 2019 and 116 per cent on 2017.
IPRT responded flagging what we know from successive research and reports that short prison sentences are less effective than community alternatives and break important protective links between people who offend and their communities and families.
It has been well reported this year that Irish prisons are chronically overcrowded. IPRT also noted that the key to addressing overcrowding is to reduce reliance on short custodial sentences, not to build more prisons, as announced earlier this year.
This data on the high number of people being sent to prison on short sentences reaffirms that any expansion of the prison estate is short-sighted and will only compound cycles of disadvantage, rather than address the underlying causes of offending. We cannot build ourselves out of prison overcrowding.
Prison should always be considered as a last resort. This is especially true for women, many of whom are sentenced for less serious offences. Worryingly, data for 2022 tells us that women continue to be disproportionately handed down short sentences compared to men; with almost 85% of all women committed under sentence being committed for sentences of less than 12 months, compared with 65% of males.
Read the article on the Irish Times website here.