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Ó Snodaigh - Prison privatisation must be rejected

24 September, 2003

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD welcomed the publication of an open letter to Minister for Justice Michael McDowell from leading criminologists and human rights activists rejecting prison privatisation. He said it was a "necessary kickstart to a fuller public debate on an issue of public importance."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "True to form, Minister McDowell appears ready to proceed with prison privatisation by stealth. So far the issue has only been raised in terms of reducing the cost of prison overtime. There has been no discussion of the fact that if privatisation is brought in that it will represent a major, unsignalled shift in penal policy. There has been no public debate full stop. We need a proper debate to focus on the needs of society, and the international evidence that points clearly to growing concerns around the issue of prison privatisation.

"Not only do we find that there have been significant problems with private prison conditions we also find no conclusive evidence that they save the state money at the end of the day.

"Imprisoning people should never be a profit making experience or exercise. Irish society should only use imprisonment as a last resort and we should always be aiming to reduce the numbers of people who end up in prison. This requires us as a society to tackle the causes of crime. We need to tackle the social injustices that lead many people into crime in the first place. And we must ensure that the revolving door nature of current prison policy comes to an end by reducing rates of recidivism through providing proper rehabilitative services. This can never be the aim or objective of a private corporation who will need full prisons to maximise profits.

"That fifteen experts in the field of prison reform have rejected privatisation as an option is highly significant. Their letter sends a very clear message to the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and the Prisons Director Sean Aylward that privatisation would be a retrograde step in terms of penal reform and social justice and must be rejected." ENDS

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