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Capital budget must be amended to address prison overcrowding – O’Brien

10 November, 2011

Speaking following the announcement of the capital allocation to the Justice Sector for 2012, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Jonathan O’Brien called on the government to increase the allocation to the Prison Building Service in order to address the issue of prison overcrowding.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“The €24.1m that has been allocated to the Prison Building Service is wholly inadequate. This represents a 30% reduction in the capital allocation to the Prison Service.

“The level of overcrowding in prisons is at chronic levels. The prison and courts services will be forced to use early release in order to address the overcrowding. If anything, this funding should be increased.

“The Minister for Justice must take a new approach to prison policy. The majority of people in prisons are there for very minor offences and non-payment of fines. These should not result in custodial sentences. Changing prison policy and introducing sentencing guidelines should be part of an attempt to address overcrowding.

“While we welcome the 2012 capital allocation for the in-cell sanitation project in Mountjoy Prison, we disagree with the Minister’s views that this will ‘radically improve’ conditions in the prison.

“The Department is aiming for 317 cells in Mountjoy prison having in-cell sanitation by the end of 2012 – this is only 60% of the cells in the prison, meaning that 40% still will not have in-cell sanitation and the practice of slopping out will continue. There is no mention of Cork prison, where hundreds of men are slopping out on a daily basis. This must be addressed by the Minister.

“None of the allocated budget to the prison building services addresses over-crowding. There will still be 6 or 8 to a cell in some prisons with people living in the most inhumane and Victorian of conditions.

“I have submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions in order to get more information on the allocated budget to justice.”

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