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Ó Snodaigh rejects plans for electronic tagging and calls for increased resources to Probation and Welfare

17 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Aengus O Snodaigh TD has rejected plans for electronic tagging of public order offenders and called for increased resources for probation and welfare.

Speaking in Dublin today he said: "The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, wants to introduce electronic tagging of offenders, initially for public order offenders and first-time offenders. But his claim that this will keep prison numbers down is a total red herring. Public order offenders generally do not receive a custodial sentence under present practices according to research by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and are a category already at very low risk of re-offending. Indeed the Minister himself previously admitted in the Dáil that the effectiveness of electronic tagging schemes has not been proven.

"I fully agree that many non-violent and minor offenders are needlessly committed to prison in this state, and that this must change, but I do not accept that this scheme represents a viable solution. We know that the ideologically?driven PD Minister is dying to privatise and outsource as many justice system services as possible, despite the lack of proof of cost-savings in this or other jurisdictions. Electronic tagging is nothing more than a costly make-work project for the Government's private sector pals.

"Instead of wasting money on costly gimmicks of dubious value, the Minister should instead address his Government's persistent starving of the Probation and Welfare Service, as recommended by the Auditor General's 2004 report which examined the cost-effectiveness of present prison policy, and the potential cost-savings of a beefed-up Probation and Welfare Service.

"If we really want to both cut the fat out of the prison budget and get tough on crime and repeat offending, what we need is significant investment in crime prevention, community supervision and in restorative alternatives to custody for appropriate offenders." ENDS

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