McDowell's prison plans chaotic and reactionary - Real reform needed
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has criticised the Minister for Justice's plans for restructuring the prison service, saying they "fall far short of the comprehensive and systematic reform needed to stop the overspend and to bring Irish prisons into line with best practice." Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"From a public interest point of view, it makes no sense to close one of the least expensive, and one of the most effective prisons in the state. It makes no sense to privatise the prisoner escort service contrary to a Departmental Expert Group's recommendations. We don't know how to interpret his plans to temporarily transfer the management of two open prisons 'outside the Prison Service'. The Minister must have a plan beyond this, and we have the right to know. If it is a stepping-stone to privatisation or to semi-private PPP institutions, he must at least explain publicly why he would consider this move, which does not conform with international best practice models for a prison service.
"From what we know of them, the Minister's plans do not tackle the fundamental and underlying structural problems of over-incarceration for non-violent and minor offences and excessively high prisoner-staff ratios - both of which are imposing unreasonable costs to the state. They do not address the need to close several other prisons for health and safety reasons as recommended by the Prison Inspectorate. They would not appear to increase rehabilitative and other services to reduce recidivism, and as recommended by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Mr. McDowell needs to explain the basis for his apparently chaotic and reactionary plans, which would seem to bear no relation whatsoever to expert opinion or evidence.
"The reality is there is a pressing need for comprehensive and systematic reform of the prison service based on best international practice, not unproven rightwing ideology. The Minister should go back to the drawing board." ENDS