Irish Penal Reform Trust

Over-reliance on prison as punishment will undermine ability of service to meet its goals - IPRT

19th September 2019

IPRT MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) today (Thursday, 19th September 2019) welcomes the launch by Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan TD of the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2019-2022 and the joint Irish Prison Service / Education and Training Boards Ireland Prison Education Strategy 2019-2022.

In particular, IPRT welcomes the commitments by the Director General to: improved governance and accountability in the prison system; to embedding a culture of evidence and evaluation; and to delivering the best outcomes for those committed to custody – through improved safety, support services, and enhanced co-operation within the criminal justice system and across other sectors.

Responding today, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust commented:

IPRT welcomes the vision and commitment of the Director General to improved governance and accountability, and to delivering the best outcomes for people committed to prison.

However, the prison service will not be able to achieve its strategic goals unless prisoner numbers are reduced and overcrowding addressed, and until people with mental health issues are diverted to more appropriate settings.

A cross-agency and cross-departmental approach is needed to tackle Ireland’s over-reliance on prison as a response to persistent low-level offending. We need to see increased use of supported community sanctions, along with joined-up thinking across health, housing, education and other areas outside the criminal justice system.

Education is a key route away from offending and towards improved life outcomes. However, the reality is that staff shortages mean prison schools and workshops are regularly closed, while hundreds of prisoners are locked in their cells for more than 19 hours a day. Unless these systemic issues are addressed, the ambitious vision for prison education will not be achieved.”

For further comment, please contact Fíona at: +353 87 181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort. See: www.iprt.ie

On Friday 25 October 2019 at 11.30am, IPRT will launch our third annual ‘Progress in the Penal System’ (PIPS) report at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Green Street, Dublin 7. Follow www.iprt.ie for more details.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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