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Government must drop plans for super-prison at Thornton Hall – Ó Snodaigh

10 October, 2007

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to drop its plan to build a super-prison at Thornton Hall. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was speaking in the Dáil today after a report from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed concern about increasing levels of prisoner violence fuelled by the widespread availability of illegal drugs and the existence of a gang culture.

He said, "The report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture which concluded that Irish prisons are unsafe for prisoners and prison staff is a shocking indictment of this government's failed prison policy contained.

"The Government must immediately drop its plan to build a super-prison at Thornton Hall. Super-prisons, by virtue of their scale, are even more difficult to manage and hence will become more unsafe and more entrenched in gang culture. This in turn will mitigate successful rehabilitation and will in turn lead to increased crime through re-offending."

Speaking later Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to call on the Government to look at using alternatives to prison for non-violent and less serious offenders to stop exposing such offenders to unsafe prison conditions.

He said, "A report from the UCD Institute of Criminology last year revealed that the majority of prisoners serving sentences of less than three months have been jailed for non-violent offences such as fine defaulting. An astonishing 85% of these prisoners are back in jail within a year of being released. All of this is at a huge cost to the state.

"The only conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that greater use should be made of alternatives to prison which are more effective in terms of the ultimate goal of reducing re-offending. They are also much cheaper to administer.

"It is my hope that the Fines Bill which is scheduled to be debated in the Dáil this week will reflect the need for alternatives to prison. This would help to reduce the numbers exposed to unsafe prison conditions by ensuring that fines are linked to the offender's financial circumstances." ENDS

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