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O’Brien calls on Minister for Justice to implement prison reforms

7 November, 2011 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Speaking following Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s comments on the overcrowded prison system, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said that this should not be an argument centred solely on the number of prison places, but should address the reasons why people are in prisons in the first place, and the conditions which they are living in once imprisoned.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“The Minister for Justice has confirmed that 15% of the State’s prison population are free because there simply isn’t the space to house them within the prison system. The prison service is using early release to address overcrowding when many of the 4,275 people who are imprisoned for very minor offences and non-payment of fines should not be there in the first place.

“Overcrowding should not be addressed by simply creating more prison places, but by addressing the socio-economic reasons underlying much of the crime committed and reducing the need for prisons. Taking this approach could create a much more humane justice policy and tackle the cause rather than papering over the cracks.

“Prisoners are forced to live in Victorian conditions despite the Government having accepted the recommendations of the Outcomes Report of Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Periodic Review. One thousand male prisoners are forced to slop out every day and the overcrowding in Cork Prison is now at a chronic level and yet there is still no independent complaints system for prisoners.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the Minister for Justice to address all of these outstanding issues and use the crisis of prison overcrowding as an opportunity to look at what works in justice policy and implement reforms that will make an actual difference to people’s lives and prisoner’s rights, and reduce crime levels in this state. The Minister must ensure alternatives to prison are put into practice for minor offences and that prisons remain a sanction for serious criminal activities.” ENDS

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