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Super-prison should not be developed – Ó Snodaigh

24 June, 2008

Speaking in the Dáil today on the Prison Development Bill 2008 Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD raised serious concerns about the development of super-prisons in which he said gangs will flourish. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was also critical of the proposed development of a super-prison at Thornton Hall and the Public Private Partnership arrangements under which it is to be constructed.

He said, "The proposed prison to be built at Thornton Hall is to have a capacity for up to 2,200 prisoners. That's four times the size of our current largest prison. As has been shown in the US gangs flourish in such super-prison style facilities.

"The very scale of the prison makes it much more difficult to manage. The prison population will inflate even further with costly consequences in terms of expense to the tax payer and increased re-offending.

"Cheaper and more effective alternatives to custody must be made available for all non-violent petty offences. The capacity needs of our prisons should only be determined in the context that alternatives to custody for such crimes will be in place. The need for such alternatives is highlighted by the fact that one third of all prison sentences are for less than three months.

"Sinn Féin is opposed to the building of a super-prison for the reasons above and others. We are also outraged by the proposal to re-locate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to this site and we have huge concerns around the purchase of the site for a substantial amount of money over its value at the time.

"We have huge concerns about the decision to build this prison under the controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements. It was the decision to employ PPPs that led to the debacle with the five Dublin regeneration projects all of which are now in serious doubt as the developer, the very same developer who is likely to be chosen to develop this prison, has pulled out.

"Sinn Féin is opposed to the use of PPP arrangements for public developments as the private company's quest for profits always takes priority over the public need." ENDS

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