Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Pa Daly TD, has today commented on the overcrowding crisis within Irish prisons. The Prison Service recently confirmed prison spaces are effectively non-existent, with as many as 167 prisoners now sleeping on floors.
Teachta Daly said:
“This crisis has been well flagged by bodies such as the Irish Penal Reform Trust, who expressed serious concerns in February. Figures from the Prison Service show a desperate situation across the board, but with some prisons coping better than others.
“I am especially concerned about the situation in Limerick’s female prison, which is currently at 176% capacity, and in Mountjoy’s female prison, which is at 115% capacity. The situation within the open prisons is a little more positive, but Shelton Abbey and Loughan House are still more than 90% full.
“Prison overcrowding undermines the health and safety of prison staff and prisoners, making them difficult to run effectively. This has a knock on effect on rehabilitation and human rights, as options for moving more dangerous prisoners become restricted.
“During the pandemic, there were some sensible approaches taken to reducing the numbers actively in prison at any one time. There is a promised Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform which should be expedited also, as how short sentences are managed does need to be reviewed and reformed appropriately.
“We can learn much from countries such as Slovenia and the Netherlands, and examine reducing our rates of incarceration for shorter sentences especially.
“The government also needs to make the appropriate investments, such as completing the works at Limerick Prison. Sentencing is a matter in the discretion of the trial judge and not the responsibility of the Prison Service but some of these measures will help to insure we do not end up with a disaster in Irish prisons. This will have grave impacts on public safety and reduce Ireland’s credibility as a human rights leader.”