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McDowells privatisation plans not credible solution to prison overspend

21 April, 2005

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said, "Minister McDowells privatisation plans are not a credible solution to prison overspending." Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Minister "talks tough but fails to introduce rational reforms that get to the heart of the problem of prison overspending."

Speaking from Dublin today he said, "There is no doubt that massive increases in the spending, or in imprisonment in general and prison officers overtime in particular, must be tackled.

"Leaving aside the Minister's deceptiveness in that he has repeatedly denied to me on the record that he plans to privatise prison operation, the Minister's privatisation solution is not credible. I am not convinced it will lead to overall cost savings and it may even lead to increases.

"I have questioned him directly on the issue of demonstrated cost savings of privatisation - including the prison escort service - and he has repeatedly admitted that he has no evidence that this will cost less. So he is essentially taking us up a blind alley.

"Meanwhile the Minister has ignored the Comptroller and Auditor General's recommendations last year that significant cost savings can be realised through greater use of non-custodial sanctions for non-violent offenders at a tiny fraction of the cost of imprisonment. But such a rational solution features nowhere in the Minister's plans. Indeed, he has repeatedly delayed the publication of the necessary legislation.

"The Comptroller and Auditor General criticised the Government for persistent under-funding of the Probation and Welfare Service and this looks set to continue.

"Finally, his superprison plans will lead to further unnecessary bloating in the system. Once again he is not able to demonstrate cost savings in response to direct questions from me.

"So, as with his Garda reform and immigration reform schemes, once again Michael McDowell talks tough but fails to introduce rational reforms thatget to the heart of the problem of prison overspending." ENDS

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