Female prison plans for Thornton Hall not justified – Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said official figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the Irish Prison Service (IPS) on the nature of crimes for which women are imprisoned paint a different picture to those provided to his office by the Justice Minister. He said the CSO and IPS figures show the potential for significant financial savings to be made if the Government would look at the use of alternatives to prison for minor non-violent offences.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the figures show the case for doubling prison capacity for females through the building of a super-prison at Thronton Hall has not been made and money saved through the use of alternatives to prison for minor non-violent offenders could be spent on catching violent and serious criminals.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "First of all, the figures provided to me by the Minister are a snap shot of the female prison population on one day in November this year and are starkly different to the average figures from one day in December in each of the four years from 2003 to 2006. It must be remembered that we are talking about relatively small figures here - there are currently just over 100 places for female prisoners in the state - so a relatively small increase of prisoners can show a high percentage change in the figures.
"The averaged snapshot figure from the Irish Prison Service annual reports puts the number in prison for non-violent offences against property at 35%. In addition the figures for the total amount of female prisoners over the last number of years demonstrate that the majority of women sent to prison are there for lesser offences. This shows that there is potential to address overcrowding in the female prison population through the use of alternatives to prison for minor non-violent offences.
"Sinn Féin feels that the Government may be wasting a lot of tax-payers money with its proposal to double the prison capacity for females through the building of a super prison at Thornton Hall.
"Alternatives to prison such as community service orders and probation have been proven by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report and other reports to be more cost effective and they are also more effective in terms of reducing re-offending especially when tied to rehabilitation, education and family support services.
"I would urge the Minister to consider extending the use of alternatives to prison especially for those convicted for non-violent crimes. This is cost-effective but also better for society and the money saved could then be put back into the justice budget to be spent on measures to catch serious criminals such as extra resources for the Gardaí." ENDS