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Thornton Hall an ill-conceived ego driven project – Ó Snodaigh

27 July, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has described today’s announcement from the Government on the Thornton Hall prison site as yet another indication of this Government’s disastrous attempts to tackle the State’s prison crisis.

He said:

“This Government intends to continue to pour further millions into what is fundamentally a badly thought out idea. Let’s be clear, the construction of Thornton Hall is an ill-conceived ego driven projected started by Michael McDowell and continued by Dermott Ahern.

“The Government has already paid under McDowell’s watch, almost €30 million for the original site which had a value of just six million euro. It allowed a further €1.3 million to be spent on purchasing additional land for access. Dermot Ahern has overseen another €10.3 million spent on professional fees and preliminary site works including surveys, landscaping, security, site preparation and maintenance of the property. This can only be described as a wanton waste of taxpayers’ money.

“The tragedy of this wastage is that much of it could have been put to more efficient use improving prison conditions of the existing Mountjoy prison where chronic over-crowding has created serious health and safety issues.

“Economic wastage aside, the Government is clearly missing the main point that simply creating a few hundred more cells is not a sufficient solution to tackling the prison crisis in this State. Where is the strategy to deal with the increasing rates of imprisonment? The number of prisoners in our system has rocketed over recent years while little to nothing has been done in dealing with the root causes of the massive surge – poverty, disadvantage and addiction.

“Without steps to address recidivism, proper drug and alcohol rehabilitative supports in prisons, educational facilities, addressing the vast number of mentally ill prisoners and their specific mental disabilities, the government's solution is to build more and more cells. Imprisonment and increased sentences are not a solution to the underlying problems causing prisons to be bursting at the seams at present.

“By the time the extra cells in Thornton Halll are built, there will be a need for more to be built unless we fundamentally address penal reform, including the issues of the imprisonment of debtors and fine defaulters and non-violent offenders. Many of these offenders could in fact be 'punished' through a more cost-effective and humane community service regime, administered by a properly resourced Probation and Welfare Service.

“The problem of overcrowding in our prison services is completely unsustainable.” ENDS

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