Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said that plans to introduce community courts were a positive and progressive step.
Speaking today, Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:
“Sinn Fein welcomes this move which we feel is an important first step in the modernisation of what is a very outdated penal system.
“The Irish prison system is in need of urgent reform.
“Virtually all of our prisons, especially Limerick, Mountjoy and Cork are not fit for purpose.
“Prisoners still have to slop out; and overcrowding, violence and drug use are endemic
“The services we offer prisoners in terms of education and health care, drug addiction and mental health services are appalling.
“I saw with my own eyes just how bad conditions are on a recent visit to Margaretta D’Arcy in Limerick jail.
“Such was the lack of educational resources at the prison that Margaretta, now in her 79th year, took it upon herself to make a public appeal for books for the prison library.
“Even more shocking is the fact that prisoners are locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day in a state of virtual isolation. By any standards this is not good enough.
“If we have to put people in prison we must also acknowledge that they are human beings with needs and rights.
“It is ironic that the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is about to introduce Community Courts as his colleagues in government slash the budgets of community youth groups and dismantle the community support infrastructure.
“Keeping people, especially young people out of prison and away from the criminal justice system requires a coordinated effort across the services.
“A properly resourced and well-funded community sector is central to this effort.”